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Newsroom culture of excellence, foundational document No. 7: An editing plan for breaking news

This is the York Daily Record/Sunday News’ phased plan to deploy editors and other journalists to push out breaking news content – and to interact with readers. (Click on image to see complete plan.) The plan assigns duties for editors scaled according to the nature of the breaking news event.

A watershed moment for our newsroom came one late Friday afternoon several years ago when Harley-Davidson workers went on strike.

That was a major event, one that we had been anticipating because the prospect of a strike at our then-largest manufacturing employer had been looming.

So we were prepared to deploy  reporters and photographers, with a time-honored editing model that was good for print. But it did not workwell in the burgeoning digital world.

In the “old days,” a city editor could direct reporters and edit copy and take calls from photographers, even on deadline. The city  might call in another editor for help at peak times. If the story was big enough, maybe more than one. And do a good job.

Time frames before press start were generally longer. But in the digital world, the run-up time is “now.” And the number of avenues for putting out content are endless: tweeting, retweeting, Facebook, live blogging, news alerts, updating the main site, aggregating content from other sources. There’s coordination with sister news organizations. Adding it up, we have more than 50 pipelines or platforms that we can use to push out news – and receive feedback from readers.

One editor or 1 1/2 editors isn’t enough today when major news breaks. Sometimes it takes five – or more.

And they don’t have to be editors. They can be – and are –  journalists from every part of the newsroom. (We’re losing the dated editor/reporter distinctiveness in our newsroom. We’re all journalists empowered to perform the 3 Cs – Create and Curate (edit) and engage the Community.)

An example came to mind as we reviewed our Harley coverage of that strike. There’s an idea – perhaps it’s a fact – that fighter pilots have so many things to do and process so much data in the cockpit that they’re overwhelmed. That can lead to pilot error. The mind cannot process it all.

Coming out of that Harley incident, Metro Editor Susan Martin drafted a plan to rate or rank an event and then, accordingly, layer in journalists to work on the 3 Cs.

That’s the plan included above.

When the scanner squawks or we receive a tip via a tweet, do we sit there and ponder how to rate events? No, our response has become instinctive.

But when confusing or complicating news happens,  Susan still pulls out the plan.

I hope this series of foundational documents gives readers a glimpse into what happens in a newsroom when news happens. Did you realize so much goes into this?

 Also of interest

For other plans in this series, visit the Foundational Documents page of this blog.