Why are journalists so bad at handling breaking news online?

Bill Dunphy thinks he has some answers to that question.

Bill is a Senior reporter for a Canadian newspaper called the Hamilton Spectator. and he’s been looking at the way the media reacted to an explosion at a propane plant in Toronto, His blog post – Propane depot explosions expose shortcomings in breaking news coverage by newspapers living in a Web 2.0 world – has some really useful stuff to say about the problems of covering live events.His take?

Bottom line – in aggregate, citizens journalists out-performed their professional counterparts getting news out faster, offering more details, and better images and videos. They also made more mistakes and had a high noise to signal ratio. Mainstream media were slow off the mark and while they depended on the citizen journalists, they failed to make the most of the possibilities that material offered.

So how do you make the best of the material. In summing up, Bill has some useful advice.

When breaking news happens, start live-blogging it, relying on readers and fellow citizens to provide us with hot, local, first-person information (text, images, video – maybe even audio). Solicit it and use it — highlighting contributions while inviting more. Search the web for the contributions of others and link to the best.

At the same time let slip the hounds. Deploy  professionals to do what they do best, use their skills and tools and access to bring back hard facts and colour, great images and video, to craft analysis.

Then have skilled web editors blend the best of them all into one magnificent package. Make sure you eliminate the inevitable errors of fact that appear during the rush of breaking news commentary and reporting. Use archives and the web to add context and a deeper, richer experience. Offer readers relevant resources and a space to share thoughts, stories, and comments.

It’s a great post, well illustrated, so go an take a look

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