The Trentonian used Twitter, Facebook, community bloggers and the newest big-name social tool for journalists, Google+, to cover a shooting at an apartment building Thursday.
I learned about the Trentonian’s excellent coverage while preparing for a Friday workshop at another Journal Register Co. newsroom, the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio. I quickly compiled an earlier version of this Storify account, pulling in tweets, news accounts and Facebook updates. But I didn’t know much about how the Trentonian staff did its outstanding work. I sent Interim Editor Joey Kulkin an email, asking him to send me a few paragraphs explaining how they had covered the story.
My workshop was about using social media in beat reporting and about curating social media content. In the questions during my presentation, a staff member asked how journalists could use Google+. I gave a pretty lame answer, saying that I had not had much time to dig into Plus and explore the possibilities. I said I had been impressed with Google Wave and saw considerable possibilities with it, especially after the Seattle Times used Wave in its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the manhunt for a cop killer. I thought Google Buzz was lame from the first and never found it useful for journalists. I had played with Plus enough to think it would be useful, but not to talk knowledgeably yet about how you would use it.
Just four hours after my workshop, I learned that Google+ had actually been an essential tool in the Trentonian’s coverage of Thursday’s incident:
“Google+ is what gave us, and no one else, the key information,” Kulkin said in his email telling me how the Trentonian had covered the story.
So I updated this Storify account, interspersing Kulkin’s account of the Trentonian’s coverage with tweets and other accounts from the public, as well as the coverage from Trentonian.com.
Kulkin explained how the Trentonian jumped quickly on the story:
I sent photographer Jackie Schear to the scene, but she could only get so close because cops had set up a wide perimeter. I then called one of our bloggers, Anwar Salandy, and told him to go there and talk to nearby businesses and shoot video. He got there quickly and turned it around within an hour with vital information from the nearby psychiatric hospital — the shooter wasn”t believed to be a patient on the loose. He also sent video.
I then called staff writer L.A. Parker because he lives in Ewing, so he might have some insight on the area and maybe even friends who live in Versailles. He came to the office and made a few calls and delivered nicely reported information. Staff writer Joe D’Aquila e-mailed me from home and asked how he could help, and I gave him Ewing police cell phone numbers, and he provided key information.
Throughout this process, I was tweeting, Facebooking, Google+”ing and SMS”ing, asking anyone for information or contacts within Versailles.
|“||Let’s pray people. My sister Joan is on lockdown at her Job- NJM- One man is feared dead and police officers have been shot at by a man barricaded at the Versaille Apartments on Sullivan Way by Lower Ferry Rd. This all started around 12:00 and all Roads around there are closed. SWAT and State police are there. Stay away.!!!|
|“||I was here earlier today. Just insane for this to happen. http://www.trentonian.com/articles/2011/07/14/news/doc4e1f1eb4c4292459878667.txt|
The big break came when a woman named Stephanie Savas e-mailed me to say she lived in one of the apartments. I called her ASAP and started our connection. We e-mailed each other every few minutes. I knew she was scared, but she trusted me enough to keep replying to my update questions. I didn”t know it at the time, but she was chronicling the action on her Reddit page (and that became a story in of itself). The best part is when she took pictures of the action through her window and e-mailed about two dozen to me. The front-page photo was hers. Totally lucky.”
I don’t believe in luck. The lucky journalists are always the resourceful, hustling journalists.
|Trapped Versaille Apartment resident shoots photos of police trying to contact barricaded man
EWING — A resident named Stephanie at the Versaille Apartments has been in her apartment since the start of today’s shooting and police response. Her apartment is close enough to the police presence that she took she’s photos. At 4:45 p.m.
At some point I checked FB or Twitter (can”t even remember at this point) and noticed that someone said the shooter”s name was Wayne. So I started to report on that and asked FB/Twitter/G+ peeps to help confirm and provide a last name if possible.
The only reporter we had for the day finally arrived, and thankfully, Ewing was her beat, so I told Joan Galler how we were tackling the story and got her focused. She worked the phones well.
Another stroke of luck took place when our publisher, Bill Murray, decided to go to the scene because I told him that based on the Google map we embedded, there might be a back way into the complex. It was a longshot that didn”t quite pan out, but Bill still got close enough to hear things (booms, tear gas shots, and he knew some of the law enforcement people, so he called every 10 minutes with great information. He”s the one who provided the shooter”s last name).
Another big piece fell into place when a trusted Trenton police source called me with 3 or 4 updates. … He helped provide the info that the shooting was over a parking dispute at the complex.
All the while, I kept tweeting, Facebooking and Google+”ing. Got lucky again about 6 when someone in one of The Trentonian”s Google+ circles wrote that she thought her cousin was the shooting victim laying in the parking lot. So I immediately latched onto her, and we kept in constant communication. She was really trusting and answered all of my reply questions. G+ is where she confirmed that the victim was her cousin about 10:20.
Back to the question of luck: Luck had nothing to do with this. In the fog and adrenaline rush of a breaking story, Kulkin had the presence of mind to check a new tool he could only have been using a week or two. And already Google+ is proving its value to the staff of the Trentonian.
|Is Reddit the new Twitter? ‘Redditor’ reports live from apt. complex turned crime scene
July 14, 2011 5:49 PM PDT A standoff between New Jersey police and a man who reportedly shot another man with a rifle is being reported live on the Web. But not on Twitter, from which previous real-time incidents such as the river landing of US Airways 1549 were broadcast.
|Real-time reporting of Thursday’s shooting and day-long standoff in Ewing (RESIDENT PHOTOS)
See the full account of yesterday’s incident hereUPDATE 12: At 10:45, Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini confirmed that Tim Rivella was today’s shooting victim and died from his wounds.UPDATE 11: The shooting victim whom police couldn’t attend to in the parking lot during the 8-hour standoff has been identified by a family member as Tim Rivella.
One more piece of Kulkin’s report:
During these hours I continually updated the web story: Update 1,
Update 2, etc. By 9 o”clock Joan started the print story. We missed the first print deadline badly, but we confirmed shooter and victim.
This is much longer than you probably wanted, but it”s a pretty good picture of how newsroom and community and social media worked together to provide real-time reporting during a crisis.
Actually, it was more than I asked for, but it was exactly what I wanted. Thanks to Joey for this great detail, and congratulations to the Trentonian staff for excellent coverage of a breaking story, using old-fashioned hustle and stellar digital engagement.