Cost-effective hardware and software for your newspaper

By Lamar Henderson

If you wanted to know about some of the best hardware and software at reasonable prices for your newspaper, then you should have been at Kevin Slimp's pre-convention workshop last month.

Slimp, noted newspaper technology consultant, spoke at the National Newspaper Association's 2010 Annual Convention and Trade Show in Omaha, NE. DIGITAL CAMERAS Slimp showed the current crop of high-end professional digital cameras, including the Nikon D3S and the Canon Mark IV, both of which retail for about $5,000.

Slimp said that what makes a difference between an expensive camera and a less expensive one isn't the resolution, but the speed at which the photos are shot.

"With a camera like this, if you're at a nighttime baseball game and someone is sliding into home plate, you can get a perfectly clear photo."

For photographers on a more modest budget, Slimp recommended the Canon Rebel T2i, also known as the EOS 550D, which retails for less than $800. This 18-megapixel camera not only shoots great photos, Slimp said, but it also shoots true, 1080p high-definition video.

"With a camera like this," Slimp said, "you'll get better quality than you would if you bought an HD video camera, because you can use your lenses with it."

Newspapers interested in recording video for their websites, Slimp said, might want to look at the Kodak Zi8 pocket video camera, which costs about $180. The Zi8 records about an hour of video in 1080p. If you need to record longer videos, Slimp recommended the Flip SlideHD, which comes with a larger screen than the Zi8, and can record up to four hours of 720p video. It costs about $250.

For audio recorders, Slimp recommends the Zoom H2 audio recorder, available for about $150.

Slimp mentioned a number of online tools to aid newspapers. Some of them include: is a free website that converts files from one format to another. allows newspapers to create a page of links of all the sites that carry stories on a particular topic.

Smugmug allows newspapers to sell photos online. It keeps 15 percent of the photo price, which is set by the newspaper.

Ning is an easy-to-use site for creating social networks for your community. offers free advertorial content. While the content is free, it does use product names in its content.

Asked about his opinion of Apple's iPad, Slimp said that he saw the iPad not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

"Studies show that people will pay for online news – if they can find a good way to read it," Slimp said. "I think the iPad may be that opportunity for us."

For newspapers that use Macintosh desktop computers, Slimp recommended purchasing the 27-inch iMac for designers and the 21-inch iMac for writers and editors.

Windows-based operations should probably use Compaq or HP desktops, Slimp said.

Those interested in Mac laptops may want to look at the 15-inch MacBook Pro, Slimp said.

On the PC side, Slimp recommended Toshiba's Windows-based laptops. He said that, when purchasing a Windowsbased laptop, you should get at least four gigabytes of RAM and at least Windows 7 Home Premium.

Slimp quickly ran through some recommendations for other hardware.

Scanners: Scanners only work well for about two years, Slimp said, and should be replaced regularly. Slimp recommended Epson scanners.

Backup drives: Slimp said that you cannot back up your computers enough, and recommended users have multiple backups, including offsite backups. He recommended drives from LaCie or Western Digital.

Servers: An operation in need of a file-sharing server should look into Ethernet disks, sometimes called network-attached storage drives. Slimp also recommended getting a second unit to backup the main one.


Slimp gave the audience tips on the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite, CS5, highlighting the new features of InDesign such as simplified selection and editing, which allows the user to select a group of select a group of objects and make a change to one that is reflected in all the others, the ability to track text changes and the addition of multiple page sizes. He also demonstrated new features in Photoshop such as content aware fill, which aids in removing unwanted elements from photos.

Slimp also recommended some of the features of the latest version of Acrobat Pro, version 9, such as the ability to make color conversions in Acrobat, moving all text from the color to the black plate only and converting text to outlines.

© Lamar Henderson

Lamar Henderson is the website administrator for the National Newspaper Association. You can contact him at

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