Welcome to what has become a Quill winter tradition. Once again, we exercised our research skills, took into account the advice of experts in the field and did a seek and find to uncover great gifts for you or the journalist in your life. Our prime criteria: Hey, this is either really useful, cool, or ideally, both.
While some of these items may be too pricey for your office gift exchange, you can still drop hints to your loved ones. Or treat yourself.
If you’ve never used a smartphone gimbal, prepare to be amazed. With one of these little self-stabilizing handles, you can shoot video from your mobile device that’s as smooth as any tracking shot dreamed up by Martin Scorsese. Hollywood has been deploying gimbal technology for years, but the devices they use are generally massive, two-handled affairs that ultimately give the cameraperson forearms that Popeye might find alarming. These little rechargeable numbers, on the other hand, are getting lighter and more intuitive every year. They’re super helpful for any journalist who’s even thinking about creating video elements on the cheap.
Large enough to handle your laptop, notebook and coffee but light enough to cart to a room where you’ll be more comfortable (and away from your cats or kids), this tricked-out lap desk also sports a pair of USB-powered fans and a drawer to help keep you from losing your earbuds. Just be extra careful of spills, since the attractive bamboo isn’t a fan of excess liquids. The adjustable platform and legs make it easier for you to work — from the bed, the backyard or the breakroom.
Whether you are able to visit in person or just check out its online exhibitions, this Chicago institution celebrating the written word is well worth joining. Bonus: The museum has a reciprocal membership agreement with other well-worth-your-time institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Poetry Foundation and the Museum of Broadcast Communications, as well as with author museums around the country, including Thoreau Farm and the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.
BLUE YETI USB MICROPHONE — $129.99 via Sweetwater
If you’re hosting — or guesting on — a podcast, or if you just want to up your audio game when you’re in a virtual meeting, this USB mic from the folks at Blue is an absolute winner. Often imitated, the Yeti is one of the most popular products from Blue, a mic manufacturer that’s extremely well-regarded by recording pros. Features include a mute button, onboard volume control, a built-in headphone jack, a standard threaded microphone-mount for traditional stands and multiple “polar patterns,” allowing you to customize the mic for a variety of environments and applications. The included stand and finishes are pretty cool, too. (Also, Sweetwater is a great place for audio gear. The customer service is top-notch.)
FIT TO PRINT GAME — $39.95 via Flatout Games
Yes, its artwork features cute forest creatures populating an old-school newsroom, but this game isn’t purely kid stuff. With a timer running to simulate deadlines, each player has to scramble to acquire a mix of stories, photos and ads of various sizes to populate a newspaper page. When you think you have enough, you have to then try to fit those Tetris-like pieces onto your front page. But there are catches: Ads can’t be next to ads nor photos next to photos, points are scored by appropriate adjacencies, and you lose points if the mix of stories is either too upbeat or too downbeat. Or if you have too much white space or stories that you don’t have room for. And, in a nod to realism, the paper with the lowest ad revenue goes out of business and can’t win.
SILICONE KEYBOARD COVER — $14
It’s inevitable … you’re on deadline and you’re hungry, so you’re eating over your laptop. A drip here, a crumb there, and suddenly, in the middle of what’s absolutely going to be the Pulitzer-prize-winning exposé you’ve been working on for six months, some random bit of Cheeto has reNDERED YOUR CAPS LOCK STUCK. The answer’s pretty simple (not to mention colorful): a keyboard cover that neatly drapes over everything from A to Z – or more accurately, tilde to right arrow key. Your editor AND your IT department will thank you.
LEGO TYPEWRITER — $249.99 via Lego.com
No, it has no practical value. Yes, it’s expensive. But, come on, it’s a LEGO typewriter! With a real ribbon and characters on the keys (not stickers). And you can actually feed a piece of paper into it.
Plus, with 2,079 pieces, it should provide plenty of distraction time when you just need to get away from that actual keyboard for a few minutes (okay, maybe a few hours).
“COLLISION OF POWER” BY MARTIN BARON — $34.99 via Flatiron Books
The SPJ Fellows of the Society bookshelf grows yet again with this new title from the 2020 honoree. Subtitled “Trump, Bezos, and the Washington Post,” the book covers his stint as the paper’s editor from 2013 to 2021 which, you’ll recall, were not the easiest of times to be a newspaper of record in Washington.
You’ve likely seen all kinds of stomach-churning mountain biking/skydiving/other-gravity-defying extreme sporting videos shot from the thrillseeker’s POV, and they were likely using a GoPro camera mounted on their noggin. It strikes us that a head-mounted GoPro would also be super handy for the backpack journalist in a situation where video might be super helpful, but said reporter needs both hands free. Seriously, who cares about looks when you can shoot and take notes at the same time?
LOCAL NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS —Priceless
You know how important local press is. You know how threatened it is. You know that a subscription isn’t terribly expensive. You know what to do.
SPJ SWAG — price varies by item
Show your love of journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists with swag from Shop SPJ. Featuring fun journalism designs like “Journalists Run on Coffee,” the classic SPJ logo, SPJ Love and SPJ Code of Ethics, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Plus, you can support the Marion County Record with designs that feature the quote, “Come hell or high water, the paper’s coming out.” Shop SPJ designs on T-shirts, hoodies, water bottles, coffee mugs, stickers, tote bags and more.