YDR Insider

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Newsroom culture of excellence, foundational document No. 5: Breaking news in a multiplatform environment

Click image to see complete flowchart

When deadline is ever-present and technology advances at a lightning pace and the needs of your audience shift from story to story and day to day, it is hard to establish a pattern of what you expect from yourself and your organization.

To help with that, the York Daily Record recently drew up the diagram you see above. This is for internal use, but understanding it would help any reader better understand all that goes in to delivering the news.

On some levels, all news is breaking news. Certainly, if something explodes, we see how that is breaking news. Journalists scramble as fast as first-responders. But even a vote by city council is breaking news. If it matters to someone, it’s important for us to share that as quickly as possible and to add to an initial report quickly, accurately and completely.

Charting out these concepts also helps us wrap our heads around the concept of Digital First. That concept does not mean that the print newspaper has no value, or even that print is “last” among our priorities. As this chart illustrates, digital delivery must – by its very nature – be first among our priorities because it is the fastest, most efficient means of sharing information with our audience.

But print is not last among priorities. Print simply needs to be dealt with at the appropriate time.

Should news break at 8 a.m., print is just about the furthest thing from our minds. We have 12 to 16 hours from that time before we need to wrap up our efforts for print. But we have audiences on other platforms who need information by 8:05 a.m.

Should news break at 11:30 p.m., however, print becomes an immediate concern. We might need to redesign the front page or even arrange to have the presses hold for a few minutes. But even so, digital delivery remains the top priority.

Let’s go back the idea of an explosion.

As soon as we have credible information about such an event, we would blast that info out across Twitter, Facebook, email alerts and our web sites. No matter how close we are to press start, digital must come first.

However, the story cycle does not end once the presses roll. Far from it.

We might keep journalists at a scene throughout the night. We could keep updating a story online as often as needed. Our follow-up stories would go online as soon as they were ready. And user-generated content – neighbors’ photos of the explosion, for instance – would be shared as soon as we received them.

Digital First does not mean Print Last.

Print is simply dealt with at the appropriate time. It is never first, but it would rarely be last.

See the Foundational Documents page for other entries in this series.