Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Changing deadlines to livelines

I'm working on the deadline for the print paper - and amazingly, all but one of my pages are done hours ahead of when they usually get sent down. Which has got me pondering again on one of my favourite obsessions at the moment - how do you adapt deadlines for a weekly paper to a daily website?

So far, we have been doing this on a pretty ad hoc basis, and to be honest, it shows with the site. I raised eyebrows the other day by saying most of our stories don't develop over the course of the week. I think I was misunderstood, so I should clarify: they usually don't develop of themselves over the week, but we do a hell of a lot of development to them. But - it should be possible to do that development to each story over a shorter amount of time, concentrate our energies on them one at a time, surely?

Of course, that bugbear of all newspaper offices, the press office, has to shoulder a large part of the blame for holding back when stories can be filed. They know our deadlines better than we do! When I moved from a weekly to a daily a few years ago, it amazed me how quickly press officers came back to queries. It can be done. So one of the biggest tasks in moving to a more daily mindset is convincing our regular press contacts to do the same. Quite a steep task.

There's no doubt that convincing those who Jay Rosen so charmingly calls curmudgeons is about changing mindsets. But on a more practical point, I think it's also about changing habits - and not just within the newsroom.


MH Media Online said...

I'm very interested to see how this whole non-traditional reporting thing turns out: with the advent of easy mobile reporting and of of course Twitter, I'd say that it's never been easier to report breaking news. You're quite right though - I'd say that many stories develop a lot more quickly than over a week and if you haven't reported them they're surely old news by the time you go to press.

I think it's really down to how people read/absorb news now: with the advent of the internet it became possible to post "chunks" of events as they happened and I believe that people now accept that this is way to go, rather than sitting down and reading a whole article at once.

Should journalists somehow report "as it happens" and then write a complete merged story for the print edition? An example is my local paper reporting on a suspected firearms siege which lasted for half a day: a lot of people followed this real-time on the web site but when it's presented as a full story in the paper it'll be old news.

It's an interesting dilemma though and personally I prefer the "liveline" approach: if nothing else it gives TV and radio the competition they richly deserve!

Jo Wadsworth said...

Interesting point about breaking news - we're lucky here that with a big story like that, our reporters can usually sniff out an interesting new angle for the paper, so web and print win.

But the battleground in our newsroom at the moment is putting up stories we may well have to ourselves up earlier. Will expand later today when we're off deadline . . .