Recently, I polled some of my business contacts about gadgets. Specifically, I asked them what one technological contraption they absolutely could not do without.

In order to find this list of contacts, I had to open my Microsoft Outlook e-mail, scroll down through my "favorites" to the "hot contacts" list, highlight names of people I thought were most likely to respond by my deadline and then shoot them a brief e-mail outlining my story idea and asking for their contributions.

After receiving the responses, as an afterthought, I sent e-mails back to all the respondents and asked them to send me a digital photo to accompany their picks.

I completed the story within a few days, and our Web master went one extra step and captured pictures of each gadget from the Internet and added those to the story’s layout.

The result? A fun, breezy, graphics-filled story researched via e-mail, cobbled together using Microsoft Outlook and Word, and completed entirely from my desk, without making even one phone call. (read the article)

The new journalism? Hardly. Many, if not most, stories require phone calls and/or personal contact to give them authority and verve. But it’s a sign of the times that technology so permeates everything we do that many tasks which once required enormous amounts of energy and time to complete now call only for the click of a mouse or the tap of a tiny stylus pen.

What’s the one gizmo I can’t do without? E-mail. I can make appointments for interviews, request information, keep in touch with colleagues, get press releases and breaking news tips from major news organizations, keep up with the competition, and even correspond with my mother while she’s traveling in China.

As a young reporter, I relied almost entirely on the phone and my feet. I had five stories to write every week, and was constantly re-dialing my sources’ phone numbers for comments when they didn’t return my calls quick enough, and pounding the pavement to gather color and quotes from residents of my paper’s local neighborhood.

Nowadays, if someone doesn’t return a phone call quickly, I’ll often shoot them an e-mail instead. Some people are more comfortable answering an e-mail than the phone, and it’s become another valuable information-gathering tool that enables me to do my job more efficiently.

What technology gadgets are in your toolbox?

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