Breaking news online, on time

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Published on March 19, 2014

Author: mlbalmeo

Source: slideshare.net

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High school media staffs need to set up a protocol for covering breaking news online. Here's a guide to help you do that.

 Breaking news online (on time) 13 tips to guide your staff in preparing a breaking news protocol Michelle Balmeo (@michellebalmeo) Adviser, El Estoque Monta Vista High School

What would you do?  A friend on the girls water polo team calls to tell you that they all received a phone call that their coach died suddenly last night.  You see postings on Facebook from various students indicating that the coach did, in fact, die.  You contact your adviser, who received an email from the principal stating that the coach suffered a massive heart attack after the basketball game the night before and did not recover.

1. Investigate rumors, but don’t print them.

 2. Fact check your sources.  A friend on the girls water polo team calls to tell you that they all received a phone call that their coach died suddenly last night.  You see postings on Facebook from various students indicating that the coach did, in fact, die.  You contact your adviser, who received an email from the principal stating that the coach suffered a massive heart attack after the basketball game the night before and did not recover.  enough?  enough?  enough?

3. It’s okay to wait, but publish what you know as fact when you know it.

4.Work as a team, but have a command center. Communicate frequently.

 5. Let questions drive coverage.

 6. Be prepared to think on your feet.

 7.Tell your sources you’re on deadline.Widen what you think of as “sources.” Students received a phone call at around 7:15 a.m. on Dec. 13 informing them to stay home from school due to a bomb threat at MVHS. According to an interview conducted by KTVU Channel 2 News with Lieutenant Rick Sung of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff’s office received a report around 6:40 a.m. regarding graffiti at Lynbrook High School that included a specific threat against a specific teacher and that a bomb was planted at MVHS. “We sent our own bomb detection canine unit as well as asked for the assistance of our neighboring law enforcement agencies to get their canines,” Sung said. “So currently we have three different canine units that are working in conjunction to locate any and all suspicious packages.”

8. Use whatever platform you have. Match media to story.

 9. Keep your adviser in the loop. Seriously. I’m begging you on your adviser’s behalf.

 9. Keep your adviser in the loop.

10. Follow the story to the end, then revisit and follow-up.

11. Promote your content professionally.

12. Be transparent about updates and corrections.

13. Interact with your readers. Answer their questions with speed, accuracy.

Develop a system BEFORE it happens  Who do reporters contact if they hear something?  What role do editors play?  How do stories get assigned out?  What’s the editing process?  Who posts the content to the site?  When do you start? And stop?

What would you do?  7:25 am: An automated message goes to all students and teachers by phone. It states that school has been cancelled due to an emergency situation that compromises the safety of students.  An unidentified man has shot several people at a cement factory near the school. He is still on the loose and police are searching for him.

What would you do?  8 am: The man shot a woman at a nearby grocery story in an attempted hijacking. He was unsuccessful and has left on foot.  Students and teachers who did not receive the message in time have been kept at the school in lockdown.  No further message has gone out to students.

What would you do?  9 am: County sheriff's department sends an automated message to all households with a description of the suspect. The message asks all residents to be on the lookout for the gunman.  11:20 am: Superintendent sends an automated phone message asking all students to remain at home until further notice.  4:15 pm: The schedule for the remainder of the week is released by the school. Students will have school the next day.

What would you do?  9:44 am: Police shoot and kill the suspect in the neighboring town.

Contact me Michelle Balmeo Adviser, El Estoque elestoque.org Monta Vista High School Cupertino, Calif. @michellebalmeo balmeo@gmail.com michellebalmeo.wordpress.com

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