The ‘Live Blog’ quickly becoming the default way for newspaper websites to handle breaking news
Newspapers in both the US and UK appear to have adopted the blogging method as a way to handle news that is developing quickly, often cannot be verified, without losing their readers to social media
The attack in front of Parliament yesterday provided a view into the way the way we cover news has evolved over the past decade. In years past, television was the preeminent news outlet for both print and broadcast journalists. If you remember the famous scenes in All the President’s Men, there was always a small TV somewhere in the background. Print newspapers may have been the home to the best journalists, but some events, like the resignation of the president, happen first on television.
But today social media rules. When the attack first was reported Twitter lit up with the news – and it was often wrong. On my timeline I was told that it was an attacker with a gun, and then that the attacker was a known “hate preacher” – both things were wrong. It was the police shooting, and the supposed attacker was actually still in prison and couldn’t have been involved.
Just a few years ago, in order to keep up with events, one might have gone to the Guardian’s website, one of the first papers to start ‘live blogging’ – the use of the top spot of the paper’s website to post continuous updates.
Yesterday, however, many news organizations launched live blogs – the BBC, The Telegraph, the Guardian, and others. Jumping around from live blog to live blog, one saw very little to differentiate one from the other.
Still, there are clearly certain skills necessary for a live blogger to be good at the task. Yes, posting in a hurry is important, but so is the ability to pause just a second before hitting “Post” to confirm, at least their own mind, that they are posting something important, something that is true.
There are, however, times when confirmation is hard, especially when in such a hurry. So, writing in a fashion that allows the reader to know the faith the live blogger has in the information is an important skill.
I remember an exercise we went through in an entry level reporting class where the professor started the class by giving a short press conference, then we started writing our stories. During the class, at various times, the professor would give out more information, allow for a question or two, and we would revise our stories.
The goal was to end the class with an accurate, readable story. Many students would mess up by trying to write a finished story right from the beginning. Instead, the professor was trying to teach the would-be reporters, better to write paragraphs that are true at that moment, discarding or revising them when new information came to light. A good, finished story would be a pasted together mess, but it would be accurate, with the last thing written being the lede.
But live blogging is a different skill set. There is never a lede, though some live blogs contain constantly revised Summary areas where the reader can catch up with the story without having to slog through the long trail of posts.
I wonder if schools do exercises in live blogging, and if those teaching journalism understand the concept. I know this much, it would be a skill I would highlight on my resume were I applying for a job today.