A man, an iPad and a dream

Rick Rogers has an iPad.

And a dream.

Rogers, the product development manager for American Consolidated Media, is traveling the country like an evangelist. And he is trying to bring journalists to the iPad and what it can do.

Rogers heads up ACM’s Digital Reporter Project, which puts iPads in the hands of community journalists and teaches them to report comprehensively from that exclusive platform. Reporters take pictures, shoot video, take notes, write and edit all media formats from the single device. Rogers thinks it can change the way locally focused reporters cover the news.

“The biggest change is they aren’t thinking digital as the after-product,” Rogers said. “They are able to to file quickly from the field and they are still producing quality print product.

“That is why we have chosen the motto ‘Digital first, print best.’ ”

Is it cool? Sure. Would a young community journalist like an iPad? You bet. Does it work? Does it ever. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, East Coast papers in the ACM family did some outstanding coverage of the event. And those that had Rogers’ Digital Reporter training really stood out.

“Josh Shannon at the (Elkton, Md.) Cecil Whig…he gets it,” Rogers said. “He gets the importance of reporting the news in the digital format. He was out in the storm (Hurricane Irene) with flood waters to his knees. He was provideing fresh coverage on Sunday, a slow day for the paper.

“The whole staff came on that day. They posted  more than 25 Web updates and 10 video updates on that Sunday.”

Reporters often face corporate-mandated training and directives. And not all of them are met with enthusiasm. But reporters in the ACM chain are dreaming Rogers’ dream with him.

“Being a digital reporter is nothing less than exhilarating everyday,” said Micah Moore, Stehphenville (Texas) Empire-Tribune reporter on the ACM Newsroom blog. “I unexpectedly jumped in head first on Day 1 of the project reporting on a structure/grass fire near Stephenville. As I was reporting — shooting footage, taking photos, tweeting and taking notes — I realized how natural the whole process felt. I edited the video on the scene and before I arrived back to the office, it was already online.”

In full disclosure, and before this sounds like an ACM press release, Rogers is an old friend and colleague. Rogers, like me, is an ink-and-paper dinosaur that knows how beautiful that format is. He loves it. But, like me, he sees beauty in other formats, too. And the tablet is the future.

With the iPad and the new Amazon Kindle Fire, this is how many will soon read publications. It is also how they will access what we currently call multi-media. ACM is recognizing this and getting its reporters ready.

Imagine reporters with a tablet reporting for readers/viewers/surfers with a tablet. Can you dream it?

Rogers can.

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