News as a public process, rather than the polished output of a magic journalism box, is one of the big ideas in journalism innovation. But what exactly does that look like?
The people at BreakingNews.com are taking a stab at answering that question in a redesign launching Thursday afternoon. The site’s main feature remains the same — a center column aggregating the world’s latest breaking news stories, as picked by editors. But a new column to the right has a raw feed of unverified story leads the audience can help to sort through.
This acts as a “real-time inbox of tips,” which come through the website from users or through Twitter from about 160 news organizations who signed up to submit tips by including #breaking or #breakingnews hashtags. Site visitors can upvote the most urgent items to call them to an editor’s attention. The goal is speed: to identify important news with the community’s help faster than a few editors could on their own.
“We’ve hired a 24/7 team of editors who immerse themselves in this with three screens and are tracking every bit of news they can find … but at some point we’re going to reach a natural upper limit,” Breaking News director Cory Bergman told me. “We’re only going to see an increase of eyewitness reports posted to social media — we know this is going to balloon over the next few years, and we really need the crowd’s help in being able to identify it.”
News publishers should take notice not only of the ideas at work here, but also the immediate opportunities to have Breaking News drive visitors to their stories. When the organization picks up a story, it sends direct links out on its website and mobile apps, and to about 3.4 million Twitter followers, 84,000 Facebook fans and to other channels, like the front page of uk.MSN.com.
Disclosure: Bergman is on Poynter’s National Advisory Board.