Thanks to the Telegraph’s Marcus Warren for pointing out a story on the Online Journalism Review: ‘If you don’t have a breaking news blog ready to go on your website, you should.’ I agree entirely – although I think I disagree on what a ‘breaking news blog’ actually is.
The underlying idea is one I’ve discussed with one major UK ‘news breaker’ already. And in truth, it’s a no-brainer. News homepages and stories are produced on the basis of prioritisation: the most important story or fact comes first. But once you’ve read it, you’re more interested in updates – and it’s immediacy rather than importance which dictates your degree of interest.
But the examples quoted – such as the LA Times ‘breaking news blog’ – just aren’t what I had in mind. Most of the entries read like extracts or sidebars from a fuller (and typically stuffy) newspaper story. The definition of ‘breaking’ appears to cover developments over several months.
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.)
Where is the Telegraph going with its Making News blog? Hard to tell at the minute. They’re asking the right question, but based on these admittedly early signs, I’m not sure they’re answering it the way I would myself.