Digital journalist using PDF editor in PDFpen

This One Tool Makes a Digital Journalist’s Life Easier

You don’t need another note-taking app. You don’t need a fancier call recorder. What you do need, and may not realize it yet, is a PDF editor.

PDF editors aren’t just for graphic designers. They’re useful for anyone who researches, proofreads, and edits. They’re also a handy tool for anyone who needs to make backup copies of online content. Sound like you?

If you don’t have a PDF editor yet, here’s why you should get one.

Journalism writing
Photo by JD Lasica. Source: Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A PDF editor allows you to save your work

Webpages get removed all the time. Entire news websites get shut down. If you’re not backing up your work, you’re at risk of losing it all.

Imagine having no samples of previous work to share with prospective employers and no evidence that you’ve ever written something.

Using a PDF editor, you can quickly turn your online articles into PDF documents. An advantage of saving your articles as PDFs is that this is the ideal format for sharing writing samples over email.

A PDF editor enables you to preserve web evidence

We don’t need to tell you that online content can quickly change or be deleted. That means that, in a matter of seconds, you can lose access to web content you plan to use.

Luckily, just as you can turn online articles into PDFs, you can convert entire websites and social media profiles to PDF format using a PDF editor. This is a step beyond taking screenshots and a recommended practice for collecting data.

Did you know that capturing a website or social media profile in its entirety is a prerequisite to using it as evidence in court?

A PDF editor enables you to annotate documents

You may not always have access to a printer, or want to print out lengthy reports, case studies, and academic papers in order to annotate them.

Journalist writing in a piece of paper
Photo by Yan Arief. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

With a PDF editor, you can interact with PDF documents as you read them on your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. You can highlight passages, strike through text, scribble, draw, and add comments and notes.

You can also easily convert a webpage, or one or more sections of a webpage, into a PDF to do the same.

A PDF editor makes any file editable

Tired of copying and pasting content from webpages and PDF files onto Google Docs so you can work with them? Or of manually typing the text from print documents and images?

Using a PDF editor, you can make any content editable, including scans, photographs, and PDF files. 

For example, you can take a photo of a sign or a flyer, turn it into a PDF, perform OCR on it, and the static content will become editable. You can then copy it, paste it, modify it, add text to it, and delete it.

If you worked in print journalism before going online, this is also a great way to digitize your published articles and make them searchable.

A PDF editor safely removes sensitive information

A few years ago, when The New York Times published documents from the National Security Agency (NSA), they failed to omit the name of an NSA agent—an oversight that received lots of criticism, including from political commentator Bob Cesca on The Daily Banter:

“So, the identity of an NSA agent is out there in public view within the same document in which a target of this program is named. All of this is due to the incompetence of whoever failed to properly redact the pdf before publishing it for the world to see…”

With a PDF editor, you can permanently and securely remove sensitive or confidential information using a redaction tool.

A PDF editor helps you protect your sources

Journalist protecting his source using PDF editor
Photo by Yan Arief. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2006, The Associated Press (AP) published a photograph of a hacker who admitted to committing cybercrimes. Although the AP photographer was careful not to show the hacker’s face when taking the photo, the image metadata revealed the location where it was taken, thus exposing him.

Six years later, Vice journalists also failed to delete the metadata from a photo they published of McAfee Virus Protection founder John McAfee. Using the photo metadata, the police were able to zero in on McAfee’s location and arrest him. 

As a journalist, you have a duty to protect your sources. Using a PDF editor, you can delete the metadata that puts them at risk.

A PDF editor helps you secure documents

In a hectic, stressful work environment, crucial information—such as the need to wait until a certain date before publishing something—can sometimes get lost.

You can prevent this by saving documents as PDFs and adding stamps or watermarks—such as Draft, Confidential, Embargoed—before passing them along.

When sharing content with outsiders, you can also restrict edits, copying, saving, and/or printing. You can do this by saving documents as PDFs, adding owner passwords to them, and making these passwords a prerequisite for anything beyond viewing.

PDF editors are an essential, multipurpose tool for digital journalists

You can use a PDF editor to:

  • Create a portfolio of your work
  • Preserve the original content of websites and social media profiles 
  • Turn static content into text you can edit
  • Annotate reports and webpages
  • Redact sensitive information 
  • Remove metadata from files

PDFpen allows you to do all of these things and more. Download a free trial.