12 Back-to-School Must-Haves for Journalism Students
August means school is just around the corner (or it’s already begun for some). It doesn’t matter if you’re enrolling your child into preschool or going back to school yourself, one thing is for sure: back-to-school shopping is a must.
Thinking back to our younger days, that might have meant going to the local store with our parents and picking out a shiny new backpack, crayons, and cartoon character-covered folders.
While there may not be a need for crayons or cartoon character folders in journalism school, there is still a need for the right tools for success. When people think about journalism, most think a computer and a cup of coffee are all you need to get a good story in the books. But there’s still a bit more required to help you put your best writing forward.
Some of the best tools for journalism students may come in the form of hardware or software. In fact, some of the best ways to quickly (and affordably) boost your writing could be as easy as downloading a free extension to your favorite browser. However, that’s not to say that you should skip over the core hardware products.
These back-to-school must-haves will have journalism school students ready for class and ready to create their best work yet.
12 tools every journalism student needs
- Notebook – Even if you’re recording a lecture or interview, no reporter is complete without a pocket-sized notebook. If you don’t have your laptop or the voice recorder fails to capture everything, a notebook can be a lifesaver. Field Notes offers several great notebook options.
- Pens – You can’t have a notebook without a pen. You may be taking all your lecture notes on the laptop, but a pen and notebook are must-haves for journalists. Clip it onto your notebook so it’s handy when you need to take down the critical details of an interview or event you’re covering. And don’t forget to carry backups.
- Laptop – OK, a laptop and a cup of coffee are essential. But what makes a good laptop for journalists and writers? It should have a good display, a keyboard that can keep up with all the writing, and a long-lasting battery for when you’re working outside the classroom or away from an outlet. The good news is that most of these asks are relatively basic and don’t require cutting-edge tech – and that means a lower price point. Unsure where to start? TechEngage has a list of the best laptops for journalists.
- AP Stylebook – Learn it. Love it (sometimes). No matter how well you think you know the rules, there will always come a time that you forget one, and having the Stylebook will come in handy. We know the rules are constantly changing (check out our quarterly recaps for proof), so it’s a good idea to also get access to the online version to stay up-to-date on the latest changes and additions to the guide.
- Voice Recorder – A high-quality recorder will help you get every detail exactly right and let you revisit old lectures and interviews. Look for options with good audio quality, lots of storage space, and the ability to share and edit files. Bonus points for recorders that are easy to carry and intuitive to use (especially for beginners like journalism students). Check out these voice recorder options and see if one fits your needs. And while voice recorders are generally better than mobile apps, sometimes it’s just plain easier (and cheaper) to use your phone – a plus for students on a budget. If you’re looking for something more advanced than your phone’s preinstalled voice memo app, here are some third-party voice recorder apps with nice features like transcription, editing, and file sharing.
- Noise-canceling Headphones – When you need to tune out the world and meet that deadline, a good set of noise-canceling headphones will keep you on track and focused. You can also use them when playing back that recording you made with item #5 from this list. Whether you’re searching for wireless earbuds or full over-the-ear headphones, there’s an option that fits your style and your budget.
- Pen Scanner – Even today, not all information is digitized. So when you need to scan documents quickly, a portable pen scanner will be sure to do the trick. Pen scanners, like the ones from Scanmarker, will upload the editable text to your laptop quickly and are easy to use.
- Grammarly – While the debate about the pros and cons of AI in journalism rages on, it’s undeniable that some of these tools are just plain handy. Grammarly is one of our long-time favorites. This add-in extension is a great option to help even the best writers perfect their writing. You can add the Grammarly writing assistant extension to Google Chrome for free. Upgraded plans will help you with things like tone, readability, and plagiarism.
- PR Newswire for Journalists – Need a story idea? This platform allows student journalists to create custom newsfeeds based on their interests and coverage area. If you write for the school paper, freelance, or blog, sign up for a free account and contact our team for a walkthrough.
- USB – As every former college student knows (likely after finding out the hard way), USBs are crucial. Back up your homework and stories on these small but powerful devices.
- TinEye – As a journalist, credibility is everything. To know that your photos are real and haven’t been photoshopped, run them through the TinEye browser extension for free. It’s critical to understand what photos you can and can’t include in your writing.
- Social Media Monitoring – Social media is noisy and it can be tough to cut through the clutter. Social media monitoring tools can help students hone in on the stories and trends that matter to them. Echosec, for example, helps you narrow down leads by social media posts in a given geographical region. If you’re covering a story about the city in which your school is located, this could be a great start! CrowdTangle is another popular option that also offers a Chrome extension.
Whether you’re a freshman or about to graduate, these tools for journalism students will be sure to help you improve your organization, develop story ideas, and even hone your overall writing skills without breaking the bank. Implementing all or even one of them could help you be more organized and produce better stories.
Need more writing and blogging tools? Be sure to check out Our Favorite Tools for Journalists and Bloggers.