Equipping yourself for journalism
Did you get any cool goodies from Santa this year? Sadly, I did not. But I have my eye on a new 15-inch MacBook Pro, which leads me to the topic of this post: In part, it’s the old debate of Mac vs. Windows — but also, the criteria you use for your purchases.
A graduating senior in our journalism program talked to me about this at the end of the fall semester. She had heard that our journalism department is discussing a possible laptop requirement for undergraduates, and the laptop we have in mind is a MacBook.
She gave some good arguments about why she thinks it would be better to let the students choose any laptop — the main one being that you can buy a Windows laptop for less than a MacBook. Her parents gave her a nicely loaded Dell laptop as a high school graduation present. They bought a great service contract and made sure it had enough memory and a sizable hard drive. She had not expected such a wonderful gift, and she felt very grateful. Part of her objection to our laptop requirement proposal was based on this: What if she came to college with her swell laptop and found out it was the wrong one?
I had a conversation about this with the parents of a current high school senior a few days ago, as we were sitting around stuffing ourselves with Christmas cookies and the kids were asleep. First I told them about the education discount on most big-name software (go to a site such as JourneyEd.com and check out the prices) — every college kid in the U.S. is eligible for these deep discounts, but only AFTER they are enrolled and can produce an official student ID. But more important, I put the brakes on their plan to buy their daughter a laptop as a graduation gift. She has a couple of admission offers, but she has not selected her school yet. Also, she’s not sure what her major will be. (Different majors do have different computer requirements.)
This post is not only about college students, though.
What about working journalists who are ready to buy a new laptop? Should they stick with Windows if that is what is used in their newsroom? Or should they get a Windows machine because it’s cheaper?
Here are my arguments in favor of the MacBook Pro:
- 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 15.4-inch screen (1440×900), 2 GB memory, 250 GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce video card, iLife, Mac OS X v10.5, free shipping (Apple.com), $1,999 or “as low as $48 a month.”
- Dell “Studio 15″: 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 15.4-inch screen (1280×800), 3 GB memory, 250 GB hard drive, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator, Microsoft Works, Windows Vista, free shipping (Dell.com), $699 or “as low as $21 a month.”
Now you think I’m nuts, right? I understand. The crucial difference between these two laptops, though, is not the hardware — it’s the software. The Mac OS X operating system and the iLife suite — iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, and GarageBand — will make it easy for you to start producing multimedia stories. Windows Vista will not.
Let me return to my earnest student whose parents bought her that nice Windows laptop as a high school graduation gift. After explaining how great her laptop is, she said, “I mean, I only use it for e-mail, Web surfing, downloading, and MS Word.”
Now I’ll quote one of my colleagues, a non-tech-savvy guy who got his first-ever Mac about a year ago. One day he opened up iMovie and plugged in the family video camera. “It was so easy to edit the video,” he said. “I didn’t have to read instructions. It was intuitive.”
Finally, let me put the oldest worry to rest: “At work we use Windows. Will I be able to bring files home, or use files from my Mac at work?” Yes, and yes. I do this all the time, and I DO NOT have Windows installed on my current MacBook. MS Word, Excel, Photoshop, Flash, etc., are all compatible from Windows to Mac and from Mac to Windows. Just copy the file to a thumb drive or e-mail it to yourself — it will work identically on either operating system.