Breaking news reporting

Former Houston Chronicle editor on breaking news: ‘Often AP is behind the game’

In a clip that accompanies the DVD release of “Citizen Hearst,” Houston Chronicle Executive Editor and Executive Vice President Jeff Cohen introduces Sylvia Wood, who was at the time an editor on the Hearst-owned paper’s breaking-news “Go Team” (she left the paper in September and now works for the Houston Independent School District). “Our goal every day is to be fast, first and accurate,” Wood says in the clip, which was filmed last summer, describing her work:

We look at the TV broadcasts, we look at the TV websites. We’re looking at Twitter. Often AP is behind the game when it comes to breaking news; we can get it faster from a lot of other sources. So besides covering the news landscape we’re also looking at what kinds of stories people are talking about.

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New Guardian, Scoopshot efforts bring elements of automation to photo verification

User-generated content is rife with risk and opportunity.

The opportunity for it to deliver remarkable images is made clear on an almost-daily basis, be it in the midst of a crisis like the Boston Marathon bombings, Hurricane Sandy, or simply someone snapping a notable shot at a local event.

The risk is that images are easily faked, scraped and manipulated.

News organizations and others seeking to source images and information from the crowd therefore have no choice but to push forward with new methods of verification — and to make existing methods quicker and more accurate. So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing initial moves towards automating aspects of the verification process.

The Guardian and Scoopshot both recently unveiled new initiatives to bring an element of automation to verification. Read more

Boston Marathon Explosions

Compassion goes a long way when reporting on tragedies like Boston & Newtown

Journalists are often warned about the perils of getting emotionally involved with stories and subjects, but when reporting on a tragedy there’s always room to act as a human being first and a reporter second.

Reporting on the pain of the small college town of Blacksburg, Va., after the horrific 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, my natural instinct was to grieve with the folks there. At the time, though, I didn’t know how to use my emotions as a compass to help me connect with people I needed to interview.

But six years later, I know that for journalists in such terrible situations our humanity is a strength, not a weakness.

Bill Leukhardt, a reporter with the Hartford Courant, has seen tragedy from both sides. Read more

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Boston explosions a reminder of how breaking news reporting is changing

Terrible events such as yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon have always meant “all hands on deck” for news organizations, with staffers pulled off their regular beats to contribute.

But the endpoint of the newsgathering and reporting is no longer a front-page package of stories explaining — the best one can — what happened, why it happened and what might be next. Now, there is no endpoint — events are reported in real time, with stories in constant motion, and the front page is a snapshot of an organization’s reporting at the moment when the presses needed to roll.

Boston was a reminder of that, and a look at what’s changing in real-time journalism. Through Twitter and various live blogs, I found myself looking over my shoulder at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Reuters and other news organizations, and was able to make some observations and draw some conclusions. Read more


Confusing coverage in breaking news may be SOP, but pre-empting tweets is new

California manhunt subject Christopher Dorner may or may not be dead: Forensics investigators will look at the teeth and make chest X-rays of the charred corpse found in a rental cabin where police say the former Los Angeles police officer holed up and exchanged gunfire with cops.

That image perfectly encapsulates the gnarly reporting around last night’s shootout. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office asked reporters to stop tweeting in the event Dorner was monitoring Twitter (police made the same request of TV viewers). Candy Martin, who was surprised to see her rental cabin on television — told police it had “no cable, telephone or Internet service,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

KPCC didn’t comply with the request and posted some bewildered reaction from media outlets and consumers alike. Read more


When news breaks, most Americans seek a second, trusted source for more info

When Americans first learn about a breaking news story, 83 percent seek out a second source to get more information, new research says.

Half of them turned to a different type of platform (i.e., heard the news on TV then went online to read more) for follow-up, and of the people who went online, 60 percent turned to a traditional news outlet like The New York Times, CNN or Fox News.

Traditional news outlets beat out Web-native sites like HuffPost, social media and search as the second online source to follow up on big news.
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NY photojournalist gets cameras back after arrest, but not press credentials

NPPA | The New York Times
Robert Stolarik’s cameras were confiscated when he was arrested on Aug. 4 while photographing police on a public street. He has them back now, but he still hasn’t received his press credentials. Stolarik met with NYPD’s Internal Affairs unit on Monday to discuss his complaint against the officers who beat and arrested him.

In an interview with the Times, NPPA lawyer Mickey Osterreicher says “the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into an assault on photography,” both by the press and the general public.

“Literally every day, someone is being arrested for doing nothing more than taking a photograph in a public place. It makes no sense to me. Photography is an expression of free speech,” Osterreicher says. Read more


Cubs player learned about pending trade just an hour before reporter tweeted about it

Cubs President Theo Epstein weighed in Wednesday on the controversy leading up to the trade of popular pitcher Ryan Dempster, saying one factor in the nine-day drama was how quickly news spread through social media.

Early last week, Epstein worked out a deal to send Dempster to the Atlanta Braves. The news was leaked and reporter Mark Bowman reported that the deal was “confirmed.”

But Dempster hadn’t approved the trade, which players of his seniority level have the right to do. Dempster decided to hold out for a deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Braves decided not to wait.

The affair set off a firestorm among some fans and in the blogosphere, as some turned on Dempster for costing the Cubs valuable pitching prospect Randall Delgado. Read more

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Details about Colorado shooter too important to tweet incrementally

My Poynter colleagues already have noted how ABC News and Breitbart rashly reported thinly-sourced information about James Holmes, the man accused of shooting up a Colorado movie theater Friday morning.

They should have held off reporting the supposed connections to the tea party or the Democratic Party until they had more than just a lead. In the same way, I think this was the wrong time for journalists to tweet their attempts to confirm those reports. In short, it was the wrong time for process journalism.

I use Edward Champion, managing editor of a culture site called Reluctant Habits, to illustrate a practice that did little to inform and had the potential to misinform.

You may remember Champion as the man who ferreted out examples of Jonah Lehrer recycling materialRead more


ABC News, Breitbart fall short in owning up to mistakes on Colorado theater shooter

During a major breaking news story like Friday’s mass killing at a film premiere in Colorado, journalists go hunting for any information they can find. Initially, there’s a big focus on the “who.”

The name of the gunman. The names of victims.

But ABC News’ Brian Ross overreached Friday morning, telling viewers — with little evidence — that shooter James Holmes may have connections to the tea party. His evidence: A “Jim Holmes” of Aurora, Colo., had posted something to the Colorado Tea Party website.

That was followed by an equally thin suggestion by Breitbart blogger Joel B. Pollak that the shooter could be a registered Democrat. That, too, turned out to be false.

The common denominator here — aside from a willingness to throw out unsubstantiated claims during a high-stakes, breaking news story — is that both outlets tried to chase down a fairly common name in the hopes of finding something revealing about the shooter. Read more

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