Archive for February 14th, 2009

This will be somewhat redundant for those who have followed this week’s posts. This is my column for Sunday’s Gazette:

A longtime staple of newspapers has been event coverage: We send a reporter to an event and he or she writes a story for the next day’s newspaper.

We’re still doing that, but the staff of The Gazette and GazetteOnline is leading the way in development of a new technique in journalism: liveblogging during the event.

Basically, instead of handwriting notes in a notebook, the reporter/blogger shares the notes with you as the event unfolds. It’s not a perfect process or product. Sometimes you will see a writer apologize for typographical errors (or you’ll see typos with no apology). We’re used to having more time to reread and polish our work before publication and then having an editor read the story, ask questions and polish some more.

Of course, the editing process for the print edition isn’t perfect either. I receive occasional complaints from people taking us to task for typos and grammatical errors that make it through that process. If you are one of those readers, a liveblog probably isn’t for you.

On the other hand, I also receive occasional complaints from people wanting more information on the events and issues we cover. Space limitations have always confined how much news we could print and those limitations have grown as newsprint prices rise and as advertisers in our community feel the effects of the recession. Online, though, we can tell the full story of an event. If you have the time and interest, we’ll tell you the story of an event from beginning to end. The liveblog becomes a peek into the reporter’s notebook. You can follow as the event unfolds or come back later and replay the blog. If a story in the newspaper interests you and you’d like to know more, sometimes you will be able to learn much more at GazetteOnline by replaying the liveblog.

Liveblogs are also interactive. You can comment or ask questions as the event is going on. The blogger can address your comments or questions or just post them without response. Comments and questions are prescreened, so the blogger can prevent a discussion from wandering off-topic and keep out inappropriate remarks.

Sports have been a popular topic for liveblogs, whether we are covering events such as the Outback Bowl (Mike Hlas, Marc Morehouse and Scott Dochterman collaborating) or the state volleyball tournament (Richard Pratt soloing) or just chatting with fans, as Hlas did before the Super Bowl and as various sports writers and editors do in a weekly chat about high school sports on IowaPrepSports.com.

We also are covering more and more news events live. Todd Dorman, James Lynch and Charlotte Eby liveblogged Gov. Chet Culver’s Condition of the State address. Cecelia Hanley used Twitter to liveblog from Washington on Inauguration Day (unfortunately, that liveblog became more about the crowd and the difficulty of getting to the National Mall than about the actual ceremony, but that was Cecelia’s experience). Adam Belz has covered Linn County Board of Supervisors meetings as well as Marion Mayor Paul Rehn’s State of the City speech. Cindy Hadish liveblogged last week from a meeting on air quality at Johnson Elementary School.

Some of our liveblogs are more fun than serious. Christine Doty and her daughter Alicia Ortner used Twitter to liveblog as they shopped on Black Friday. Other staff members liveblogged on their holiday travels.

We’re still in the early stages of our liveblogging experience, but we are using these tools and techniques more aggressively than most news organizations. I led a webinar Wednesday for the Canadian Newspaper Association, which wants to teach its members more about this technique.

Trish Mehaffey got some national attention, including mention in the ABA Journal, when she received permission from U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett to liveblog the Robert Miell trial from Sioux City.

We plan to liveblog more and more news events as well as to host more live chats (I’ll be hosting one this Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Please join me with questions about The Gazette and GazetteOnline). We appreciate your feedback as we continue to learn.

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