Thursday, March 13, 2008

Breaking news right now

NEW YORK -- How do you write breaking news for the Web?

Follow the Bloomberg model, said Paul Conley, a media consultant who co-led a workshop on Multimedia Storytelling today sponsored by College Media Advisers.

Conley noted that reporting breaking news on the Web is all about speed and updates. When a news story breaks, Bloomberg starts by posting a headline, usually within seconds of the news happening.

Next, a reporter will write a two-paragraph story, which will be posted within minutes. Then comes a four-paragraph story, which will generally follow this format:

Paragraph 1: Theme – what happened and why
Paragraph 2: Authority – a quote
Paragraph 3: Details – more information
Paragraph 4: Why it matters, what’s at stake

“This is the fastest and easiest way to move to 24/7 publishing,” Conley said. “It’s possible to impose this system tomorrow on your Web site.”

Breaking news should be edited quickly, even with the editor looking over the shoulder of the reporter writing.

“It’s not quite publish first, edit later, but almost,” Conley said. “Since it’s the Web, it’s not permanent.”

Jennifer Ward, assistant managing editor, interactive media, for the Fresno Bee, said her paper covers breaking news with updates of three to four paragraphs posted throughout the day.

“Then we do a write-through at the end of the day or as the story is closing,” she said.

Reporters often file news updates and even photos by cell phone, posting material as an event unfolds. “We just had someone filing text message updates from a funeral,” she said.

Sportswriters provide brief play-by-play reports on games and update a scoreboard on the newspaper’s Web site every time a team scores.

Ward noted that Fresno Bee reporters also use their cell phones to take video on breaking news stories and are often able to post before television reporters can. Two new Web sites, and, allow reporters to post video from their cell phones within seconds.

“It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in a decade,” Ward said. “It’s totally changing the way we do things. We’re beating TV. We don’t need a $30,000 video truck to do live video.”

Seventeen student journalists and college newspaper advisers attended today’s workshop, one of 27 “Media Pro” workshops sponsored this week by College Media Advisers.

Some resources for learning multimedia:

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism
An organization that "helps journalists and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways for people to participate in public life with projects on innovations in journalism, citizen media, interactive news stories, entrepreneurship, training and research and publications."

A how-to site for community journalism

Journalism 2.0 How to Survive and Thrive
A digital literacy guide for the information age by Mark Briggs, Assistant Managing Editor for Interactive News, The News Tribune

A cheap, easy-to-use program for putting together audio slideshows created by photographer Joe Weiss.

A free, easy audio editing program

A free content management system. Some newspapers, including The Temple News at Temple University, have started to use WordPress to publish online.
(You can read about The Temple News' move from College Publisher to WordPress here.)

Another free content management system

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