I’m impressed by any news organization that embraces real-time reporting and does it well. There are plenty of examples of major newsrooms, including within Sun Media, where live-blogging breaking news, sports events, key press conferences, etc., has become part of the culture.
But I’m particularly wowed by the efforts of the two-person news team at the Elliot Lake Standard, a weekly newspaper in northern Ontario. For the past 10 weeks, reporter Jordan Allard and managing editor Kevin McSheffrey have diligently live-blogged the Elliot Lake Inquiry into the Algo Centre Mall collapse. This two-man show has proven that Scribblelive can work for any size newsroom. The news team also posts a livestream (live video feed) of the hearing, provided by the office of the inquiry commissioner, Paul Belanger. The result is a great daily multimedia package.
Recently, I chatted with Allard to find out what it’s like dedicating the time and resources to running a regular live blog (last week they hit Day 37) when you’re a two-person newsroom. (Allard’s answers have been paraphrased)
Q: What has the response been from the community to the hearing live blog?
A: It’s helped keep readers up-to-date and has proven to be a helpful resource for the community. People are able to follow along and get a good idea of the big picture.
Q: How do you find Scribblelive as a web tool? Is it easy to use?
A: It’s user-friendly and pretty straight-forward from the beginning. (Staff at the Sudbury Star) gave me an outline of how to use it. It’s easy to add pictures, polls, website links. It’s easy to pick up.
Q: How has it impacted your workload? Do you still use a notebook?
A: It gives people a glimpse of what a reporter’s notebook looks like. When the hearing is done for the day, it’s just a matter of going through the (Scribblelive) blog and audio clips. I don’t think it’s increased the workload that much. Once you get used to it, it’s fine. Unlike a notebook, you just need to make sure your notes are coherent so readers can follow along.
Q: You use a lot of documents and photos in your mall hearing live blog. Tell me more about your live-blogging technique.
A: I take a picture (with an SLR) every time a new witness takes the stand and uploads it to his laptop to add to the blog. He includes polls to engage people and find out their opinions. He makes notes of important documents coming up in the hearing that day and takes a screen-grab so he can add it to the live blog.
Q: How do you juggle your commitment to the hearing (and the live blog) with the rest of the news that needs to be covered?
A: Jordan said the newsroom has a core group of freelancers and he’s been working a lot of extra hours.
Q: What types of stories would you use this for in future?
A: For any live breaking news event it is a useful tool; breaking news, hearings, sports events.
Q: What would your advice be to journalists who are reluctant to try real-time reporting?
A: Just to try it a few times and you’ll get the hang of it really quickly. This is the type of stuff we need to be doing in this industry right now. Change or die.
NOTE: Special shout out to Regional Content Director Brian MacLeod for encouraging the Elliot Lake team to use the liveblog for hearing coverage.