Does your newsroom have a Breaking News plan?

At The Independent, we’re trying to come up with a breaking news “mobilization” plan to put into place that takes into account our tools (cameras, phones, other recording equipment), our software capabilities and reporter abilities.

What? Why haven’t we done this already?

Well, it’s not like we don’t know how to cover breaking news. We do that pretty well. But it’s time to create a plan that includes social media and some staff that our 140 year-old newspaper is still getting used to using.

For example, we’re ditching our cludgy, GL-2 cameras that require tapes and take two to three hours post-production and switching to Kodak Zi8s with external microphones. We will eventually have three or four (more if we can get them) of these available to the newsroom and we will train and expect our staff to grab them when heading out on a story. Not every story will need video, but the reporters are the best judge as to which stories WILL require video to enhance them and it needs to become second nature to them to remember to grab a camera. We’re lucky to have a couple people in-house who can take that video, edit and upload it for them, but in my opinion, reporters would be smart to learn how to do this themselves. The Zi8s and Moviemaker (or iMovie) are really all you need to get something online quickly.

Our recent experiment with live tweeting has taught some of us how to use an amazing tool like the Verizon Droid to manage a whole new kind of news story. We can’t afford to buy our reporters each a Droid, but we *might* be able to invest in at least two that will be designated for newsroom use. In my wildest dreams, I want every reporter to have a Droid (or iPhone, but those aren’t available here) because I still believe they are one of the best tools a reporter could have in their arsenal. So, I’ve been tasked with coming up with a Breaking News plan that goes from news tip to the very last update. I’ve found a few suggestion online, but it’s pretty sparse. So I’m going to try my luck again with a little crowdsourcing and ask, maybe even beg for advice and suggestions from my fellow awesome journos.

  • Do you have a plan?
  • What do you include in it?
  • Who do you include in it?
  • Do you post all updates within one story with timestamps or post multiple stories each time there is an update?
  • Do you have someone “corral” all incoming information?
  • Do you flow everything through an editor before anything gets posted?
  • Do you post “as-is” and make corrections later?
  • How big does a story have to be before this plan goes into effect?
  • How do you handle the front page of your site? (Does the template change etc.)
  • Do you have a general plan or do you tailor it to your organization? Which is best?

Any help would be much appreciated. Comments are open! 🙂

3 Replies to “Does your newsroom have a Breaking News plan?”

  1. For some reason commenting wasn't turned on. I do not know why other than I may just be stupid. But they're on now so I'm still hoping for some suggestions 🙂

  2. No I never really did. We sort of just go with the flow when something big breaks. The reporter heads out to cover – and now that more of them are tweeting in my newsroom, I get to have realtime updates which I love. I manage the website stories, photos, multimedia etc as it comes in. That’s about it.

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