BBC ‘news jockey’ experiment

By Steve Herrmann, writing on the BBC News Editors blog yesterday:

During the past few years the “live page” format has become a regular feature of our coverage around big breaking stories. The format has been a big success in terms of usage, so we’re thinking about what more we could do with it. We think the pages are not necessarily just about breaking news – they are also a real-time showcase of the best of what we (and others) are doing.

By me, writing in July 2007:

A ‘breaking news blog’, in my book, should look and feel more like Twitter. Activate it when a huge story breaks – maybe only a couple of times a year, maybe a couple of times a month. Short snaps of maybe only a couple of lines, written in an informal tone. Pretend you’re MSN-ing a friend. Be prepared to be vague – read between the lines if necessary, and don’t be shy about getting it wrong. Stream of consciousness, if you like, and proud of it. I haven’t yet seen any news organisation doing this systematically… but if they have any business in breaking news, then they should be.

I’ve also got an early idea for a ‘news jockey’ role, writing a running commentary on the day’s news blog-style. The USA Today thing is probably the closest comparison, but I’m thinking of something slightly different. It calls for a certain style of writing, and a certain style of writer, but I think it could be a winner.

Breaking news blogs (again)

Alfred Hermida, ex BBC, now Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of journalism, makes an interesting suggestion: using the new WordPress Twitter-style ‘Prologue’ theme as a breaking news site, ‘with reporters adding the latest details as they come in’.

I actually suggested something identical to this, back in July: ‘A ‘breaking news blog’, in my book, should look and feel more like Twitter. Activate it when a huge story breaks – maybe only a couple of times a year, maybe a couple of times a month. Short snaps of maybe only a couple of lines, written in an informal tone.’ Wish I’d followed it through, now.

If I were running a news operation right now, I’d have a WordPress installation quietly stashed somewhere offsite, ready to go. It’s so many advantages: emergency capacity in the event of a site meltdown, instant activation (by the newsroom, not the IT team) when required, and a more natural ‘breaking news’ style. When you get another 9/11, it could be as simple as switching the DNS for your main site.

By the way… did I really hear a BBC interviewer utter the words ‘people look at the World Trade Center very differently after 9/11’ the other day? Yes: they used to look up, now they don’t. That’s pretty different.