Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Old School, New Tools

A pica pole and X-Acto knife. Neither journalism tool needs to be plugged in.
Tracy Greer
A pica pole and X-Acto knife. Neither journalism tool needs to be plugged in.

I own both a pica pole and an iPhone.

The rate of change in the journalism industry has happened at a breakneck pace. It wasn't that long ago that newspapers in the U.S. were viable businesses and telephones were connected to walls.

I don't dare recap the point to which technology has brought us today, because I fear writing something that will be outdated by next week.


As the Digital Media Editor, I embrace these changes. I like knowing about the latest tech toys and how they can apply to the practice of journalism.

But I try to always remember that the core of what we do is journalism. "Old School, New Tools" is an appropriate motto for a digital newsroom. It doesn't matter how fast you can tweet if you don't have your facts straight. Photo galleries mean nothing if they don't advance the story.

Growing up in my border town meant we didn't always have the latest-and-greatest technology. I'm not sure if it was lack of funding or just the perpetual habit of living in the land of mañana.

I helped lay out the middle school newspaper using X-Acto knives. In high school, I learned to roll my own film to take photos, which we developed as prints. We put together the yearbook with typewriters, grease pencils and carbon-copy blue sheets. And we used those pica poles, counting the point sizes of every line of text.

I'm grateful for the advances in technology -- and access to it -- because it makes my work easier and I'm able to be more efficient in production. But I'm also grateful that I learned the "old" way first, because it taught me to be detail-oriented and to understand the principles of design. It forced me to think about the journalism instead of publishing first and apologizing later.


How far have we come? I have an iPhone app called DesignRuler -- that measures in picas.