In a memo leaked earlier this month, President Bob Dickey has said that Gannett Company would equip journalists with thousands of iPhones, iPads and other accessories to aide them in gathering and capturing news.

In the memo Dickey explains that this “will help our journalists meet the demands of the new news cycle, one that requires agility in real-time reporting, social media and greater emphasis on video storytelling, further increasing our competitive advantage.”

After hearing the news my initial thought was, what took so long? While working for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 1999 – 2006 I watched an old media company try to transform itself. The news cycle was changing and required a more agile approach. Since my departure the world has changed even more. The addition of social media channels have given journalists a new channel to be active in and the exciting technical developments with smart phones have given anyone the opportunity to create content of the highest visual aesthetic.

The Apple iPhone 4S can capture high-definition video, has a 10 megapixel camera and when tethered to a wireless device has the ability to deliver the content to any newsroom immediately. The addition of applications on top of the platform allows journalists to update the newsroom and their followers immediately while on location.

One doesn’t have to look much further than the real-time reporting from Times reporter Brian Stelter after the devastating EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri in May of 2011. Stelter was using text messaging, social media services like Twitter and Instagram, and video service YouTube to update the newsroom and the world. All of it was done through an Apple iPhone.

The effort Bob Dickey is championing reminds me of Daniel Goldin’s adage at NASA of “faster, better, cheaper,” which pioneered a cost-cutting approach for the space agency and led to many programs using off-the-shelf parts.

Media companies and journalists should take advantage of the abilities embedded in devices like the Apple iPhone and other off-the-shelf electronics. I’d just like to see this mindset filter down a level to regional and local media companies and especially my hometown Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Quality is no longer an issue, so there aren’t any excuses left. It really is the only way for media companies to keep up with the instant news cycle and avoid being out done by citizen journalists.