Tips for broadcast journalists: When sharing breaking news on social, speed trumps beauty

Today’s multimedia journalists have to do it all on their own – report, write, edit, drive, set up live shots, and post to social media and the Web. Usually, that’s just considered a long list of stuff to do by deadline. But in breaking news coverage, the journalist has some tough choices to make.

The biggest challenge is getting the great video for the story that’s going to air on TV and being the first one to inform news consumers via social media. Here are some strategies to help serve both masters.

Let’s break down these tips into three categories:

  1. What to shoot
  2. Workflow
  3. How to distribute via social media

What to shoot

Shoot the most obvious thing news consumers will recognize right now. After all, we’re talking about breaking news and the situation may change by the time the newscast airs. This isn’t about beauty, it’s about social media speed – beat the competition and get back to using your broadcast camera for the newscast.

Because we’re talking about TV, video is a must. We want to give our followers a taste of the great stuff they’ll only see on TV later. Still photos are obviously another way to bring your followers in. Shoot one of each.

This video and photo are from a breaking news fire in the San Francisco Bay Area in June. The video gives social media followers a sense of what’s happening and confirms the reporter’s on the scene gathering information. The still photo is complementary.

Video of fire:

Photo of helicopter water drop:

breakingnewsimage

Work flow

This is where multimedia journalists have a tough decision to make. Which is the priority: social media or the newscast? I’d recommend shooting the social media stuff first. Dedicate a few minutes to it – five minutes max – and then go back to your camera.

Don’t beat yourself up over what you couldn’t get out through social media. Remember, this is more about informing news consumers now and beating the competition, not having the prettiest shot. You want your followers to know you’re there. If you’re first, they’ll catch up with you again on the newscast or on the web when you’ve got your complete video story assembled.

In the end this is about making choices. You can’t be in two places at once operating two cameras at once and doing two jobs at once. Keep this in mind: the best pictures are for your broadcast story, the first pictures are for social media.

If there’s a scenario where you’re waiting and don’t want to miss it – say a building collapse – set up the broadcast camera, lock down the tripod, and then start rolling. With the camera rolling, get out your phone to shoot your social media video and photo. Then go back to the camera.

How to distribute breaking news video via social media:

— Use your phone to gather your social media video. Skip the tablets; even an iPad mini is too big to fit in your pocket. You want to be as mobile as possible, and being able to stuff your social media newsgathering and distribution tool into your pocket is the epitome of mobility.

— Upload your videos via YouTube. Cellphones have simple, already-established workflows that make the process quicker.

— Here are 10 steps to reporting breaking news via social media

1. Shoot your video.

2. Choose send.

breakingvid1

3. Choose the YouTube option.

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4. Write a simple description for the YouTube video description box that you can copy and paste into a social media post later when the video is published.

breakingvid3

5. Choose SD. It’s faster, which is what we’re shooting for here.

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6. Choose “Public” and then Publish (top right).

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7. Wait for a few seconds and chose “View on YouTube.”

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8. Once on YouTube, choose share.

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9. Choose Twitter or Facebook to post there, or email to send the link back to your Web Team at the station.

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Simon Perez is assistant professor of broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications.

Related training: How and When to Shoot Video with a Smartphone

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  • Sarah Blinco

    Great advice, thanks for the info!

  • ProducerMatthew

    The breaking news image appears to be one that was shot in California by a local television news reporter. Why wasn’t it properly credited in this Poynter piece?