Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blogging on breaking news

This week’s class readings discuss the use of blogs in covering breaking news as well as the use of social networking sites such as Facebook in gathering information about victims of tragedies such as the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois. While I tend to be a bit old-fashioned in my preference of actual newspapers to the Web versions, breaking news is the place where I feel Web tools can really help to enhance reporting.

On one hand, and I think I’ve said this before, I do worry that there can be times where the rush to be the first paper to update its Web site can lead to stories that are published without enough close editing. I also worry (and have experience this somewhat in my own reporting) that reporters are pressured to simply write bare bones stories with only the most basic of information in situations that only require such immediate updates because there is a rush to be the first to put the information online. However, the campus shootings are perfect examples of times in which up-to-the-second information is absolutely necessary and is greatly enhanced by the use of blogs and other Internet tools

The blog at the Roanoke Times (Scroll down to the bottom to read the posts in chronological order), which is referenced in the other readings has kept a running update on the Virginia Tech shootings since the day of the event. There are a lot of updates that aren’t worthy of an entire news story, but are informative to readers. Unfortunately, something about this blog is causing my browser to freeze tonight (There are some who would argue that physical newspapers are preferable to Web versions because they don’t crash or get viruses), but what I was able to read was interesting and the blog is referenced in some of the other readings for the week.

In a column on Poynter Online, Leann Frola discusses the use of blogs in a situation when news is being updated so quickly that reporters do not have time to write traditional stories. She summarizes what the editor of The Collegiate Times has to say about the use of blogs in breaking news situations. I was glad to read that the paper made sure to check all its facts before posting on the blog, and I think it makes a good case for the use of blogs, particularly when the reporters in question are closer to the story and have access to information that other news outlets do not have. ...

Another Poynter article, this one by Chip Scanlan, compares the backward chronology style of blogs to the inverted pyramid style of news writing. As someone who spent my first year on the Emerald staff covering stories that were continually updating, I became very familiar and friendly with the inverted pyramid, and I happen to be a fan. In situations where I had to write complicated stories on a tight deadline, it was extremely useful to be able to use a basic summary body and put the new information in first few paragraphs of the story. This is something I do like about news blogs. I know exactly where to go for the most important information and I know I don’t have to wade through stuff I’ve already read.

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