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I’m leading a workshop on liveblogging starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time for the newsroom staff of the New Haven Register. The Register is livestreaming if you’d like to watch.

I would appreciate your contributions of liveblogging tips or examples on Twitter using #liveblogtips or on the liveblog about the liveblogging workshop.

Here are my slides for the workshop:

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It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, who wrote one of the greatest leads of all times, that is the theme for my presentation leading off an APME NewsTrain seminar at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth this week. (The two-day seminar breaks the group in half, with each half following a different track each day, so I will open the same program for a different group each day.) The seminar organizers asked me to give a big-picture overview of the changing media landscape for the frontline editors who will be attending. This is a blog version of that presentation.

It was the worst of times. I won’t spend much time on this, because everyone at newspapers (my primary audience at the seminar) knows how bad things are. So I’ll just review quickly: (more…)

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I’ll be speaking today to Steve Klein‘s “Writing Across Media” class at George Mason University.

I’ve written lots about traditional writing in the style of newspaper stories and those styles and issues remain important. But digital tools and platforms present a broad range of challenges and opportunities for writers, which I will focus on here and in my presentation to the class. The best way to learn each of these writing techniques is to practice it. I will offer a few tips and link to some helps (I appreciate other links, if you can offer them in the comments). Some good places to learn about writing for different media are Mindy McAdams’ blog or Mark Briggs’ books. Some digital writing tools and types I will encourage the students to study and try: (more…)

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The challenge of mastering social media is that you never get there. You always have to learn something new.

My newest social-networking platform is SlideShare. This is a place to post presentations on PowerPoint and other slide-show programs. When I was training at the American Press Institute, people frequently asked for my slideshows. They were big and I seldom emailed them when people requested the slides for seminars where I traveled. For API seminars at our headquarters in Reston, Va., we burned slides and handouts to CD’s for par participants and they seemed to appreciate it. (more…)

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Here are liveblogging examples I used in my April 21 webinar for the American Society of News Editors:

Liveblogging unfolding news stories

Virginia Tech massacre on Collegiate Times

Northern Illinois campus shootings at rrstar.com

Liveblogs using Twitter (more…)

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I will be leading a webinar on liveblogging this Tuesday, April 21, for the American Society of News Editors. I have compiled these tips as a handout for the webinar. I welcome experienced livebloggers to add their tips in the comments here or to answer the questions I raised Friday. If you are an experienced liveblogger or an editor whose staff liveblogs, please email me. I would like you to  join us in a live chat Tuesday afternoon about liveblogging.

Please plan on joining the live chat about liveblogging Tuesday between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Central time:

ASNE live chat about liveblogging

Newspapers originally responded to the opportunities of the web by posting print stories online after they appeared in print. Then we recognized the need to post news immediately to the web and started posting bulletins when news broke, often followed after the newspaper deadline (or even after newspaper publication) by newspaper-like stories. Liveblogging is a story form for digital platforms, a blend of the styles and techniques of traditional newspaper-style reporting, radio play-by-play and the interactivity of blogging. (more…)

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I seek advice from journalists who have experience with or questions about liveblogging.

I will be leading a webinar on liveblogging for the American Society of News Editors next Tuesday, April 21. I seek the advice of editors whose staffs have liveblogged as well as journalists who have covered events live. You can provide your advice in the comments here or by email, but what I want most are some volunteers to provide advice during a live chat between about 2:30 and 3 p.m. Eastern time (1:30 and 2 p.m. here in Iowa) next Tuesday.

Here are some questions we will address. I appreciate your answers on any or all:

  1. Does liveblogging help or hinder your efforts to cover the same event in a story you write afterward, whether for print or online?
  2. Do you sometimes have one staff member liveblog and another write the story?
  3. How, if at all, do you interact with the public while liveblogging?
  4. Do you use CoverItLive, another program designed for live coverage, or just update in your regular blog or news?
  5. Do you use Twitter to liveblog? If so, please tell how that works?
  6. How do you handle matters such as accuracy and fairness when you liveblog?
  7. Has liveblogging caused any problems for you relating to credential restrictions at sporting events?
  8. Have judges allowed or forbidden you from liveblogging in court?
  9. If you have conducted live chats with the public, how have you done that and how did it work out?
  10. What has been your most successful use of liveblogging?
  11. What sort of traffic have you gotten to liveblogs? Do you know how long people remain engaged?
  12. What has been your biggest problem with liveblogging?
  13. What other tips would you offer to journalists who liveblog or to newsroom leaders planning to increase their staff’s use of liveblogging?

I will provide an updated version of the handout I used for some workshops last fall and the slides I used for a webinar for the Canadian Newspaper Association in February. I welcome your suggestions for either of those (and, of course, I will credit you).

If you are using visual content effectively in liveblogging, either posting photos along with the running text or streaming video along with it, I appreciate your advice on visual issues as well.

Last request: Please send me links to examples of liveblogs, whether you were the journalist who produced it or just enjoyed it as a consumer. I will use the examples in Tuesday’s webinar. I have lots of examples from Gazette staffers (as well as some others I’ve collected), but I would like to show off the work of more liveblogging journalists.

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I was disappointed but not surprised when the American Society of Newspaper Editors decided today to cancel this year’s convention.

Few editors or their organizations could afford the time or money to attend the gathering scheduled for Chicago in late April — still on my calendar because I forgot to delete it before leaving work. I planned to attend, even if I had to go from my own pocket (and even if I’ve taken on a new role that doesn’t have editor in the title).  

I was more disappointed with ASNE’s weak promise to keep serving editors at the most difficult time the industry has faced in my career. By simply canceling the convention, ASNE practically tells us that it was just a big party anyway. I enjoyed the party. I enjoyed the speeches by politicians (Senators Obama, McCain and Clinton addressed last year’s convention and President Obama was on tap this year.) But I wanted to go to share and hear advice on facing our shared challenges. Leaders of the nation’s newsrooms need help now more than ever.

The list of woes is pretty familiar: The Rocky Mountain News published its final edition the same day ASNE announced it was cancelling. Philadelphia Newspapers and Journal Register had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy within the past week. And right here in Cedar Rapids, we eliminated 14 journalists’ jobs at Gazette Communications and announced a reduction in our company’s workforce of about 110 jobs since before last June’s flood.

ASNE can’t give up now. Maybe the editors don’t have the money or time to come to Chicago to party and listen to political speeches. But we have to join forces to support each other and to resist the sucking sound of the drain.

I don’t say this to criticize my ASNE friends and colleagues. When I was at the American Press Institute in Reston, Va., I worked right down the hall from the ASNE offices. My wife, Mimi, worked at ASNE for more than a year (and for two of their conventions). I consider several ASNE staff and leaders to be friends. Others that I don’t know as well are colleagues whom I admire. I’m in my second hitch as an ASNE member and I’ve attended the last four conventions. I have trained journalists in the newsroom of ASNE President Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel. She provided helpful information for a presentation I made when I was at API, and she provided support when The Gazette was resisting restrictions on our rights to liveblog at Iowa Hawkeye football games.

So I am not a critic piling on when ASNE is down. I am Bluto in “Animal House,” shouting to my friends, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” As Bluto said, nothing is over until we say it is.

Hall’s announcement of the canceled convention said ASNE would “increase reliance on the Web to help editors share what they are learning as they reinvent their news organizations for multiple platforms.” Promising some webinars and email newsletters is not exactly a rallying cry.

We can’t cancel this convention. Let’s just cancel the party in Chicago. Let’s gather electronically and wrestle with the issues that threaten our industry and share our most innovative ideas.

Here’s what we should do: Editors (and perhaps the occasional conductor) around the country who are trying something new or have some ideas to share should volunteer to lead (or contribute to) live chats on the issues. The ASNE convention is a lot of panel discussions anyway. We can do that online and probably tackle some thornier issues, maybe even a broader range of issues. ASNE can develop a wiki where people suggest topics for colleagues to cover or offer to address topics. Members can vote on the topics we most want to learn about and we can connect digitally to discuss the issues for two or three hours a day during convention week (maybe we can do it for two weeks, since we don’t need to worry about hotel rates).  

I’ll offer to lead or contribute to discussions on any or all of four topics: Leading your staff into the Twittersphere; journalism ethics in social networks; liveblogging as stories unfold and reorganizing to separate content generation from product management. I’ll pull together links to various materials for people to read before or after the discussion. I’ll host the live chat and lead the discussion (or collaborate with another colleague or two).

And I’ll join discussions colleagues want to launch on other topics. Tell us what you’re trying, especially if you’re having some success. I’ll jump online to ask questions, applaud risks and offer encouragement.

All the editors who were planning to attend the Chicago convention, as well as those who made the tough call to stay home, have great war stories about how they and their staffs succeeded in getting the big breaking story in the face of obstacles. Those are the war stories we would be telling in the Chicago bar. It wouldn’t even take one beer to get me started about how we covered the flood.

We need to use that same damn-the-obstacles approach to the convention. Let’s gather in a virtual convention center, even if we can’t gather in the bar afterwards.

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Live chat with Steve Buttry

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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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Here are liveblogging examples I used in my Feb. 11 webinar for the Canadian Newspaper Association:

Liveblogging unfolding news stories

Virginia Tech massacre on Collegiate Times

Northern Illinois campus shootings at rrstar.com

Clovis News Journal’s election blog

Liveblogs using Twitter

Gazette liveblog on holiday travel

Gazette’s Cecelia Hanley from the inauguration

Gazette’s Chris Doty on Black Friday shopping

Wichita Eagle courts reporter Ron Sylvester’s Twitter feed

Liveblogging events

New York Times liveblog of Roger Clemens hearing

Gazette’s Adam Belz liveblogs supervisors meeting

Gazette’s Trish Mehaffey liveblogs sentencing in a murder trial

Gazette’s Jeff Raasch liveblogs Obama campaign appearance

Gazette staffers liveblog Gov. Chet Culver’s State of the State speech

Gazette’s Adam Belz liveblogs Marion Mayor’s speech

Gazette CEO Chuck Peters liveblogs API media CEOs’ summit

Gazette’s Todd Dorman liveblogs Iowa delegation breakfast at Democratic convention 

Whit Andrews liveblogs a technology conference

Gazette staff liveblogs the Outback Bowl

Palm Beach Post liveblogs a trial

Gazette’s Trish Mehaffey liveblogs from a federal court trial

ABA Journal writes about Judge Mark Bennett’s decision to allow Gazette to liveblog

Live chat examples

Gazette live chats the week of the six-month anniversary of the flood

Gazette’s Mike Hlas leads a pre-Super Bowl live chat

Gazette staff’s weekly high school sports chat

Colorado Springs Gazette hosts chat about arts in the community

Possible revenue-making liveblog approach

Colorado Springs Gazette liveblogs a store opening

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This is the handout for my liveblogging webinar presented for the Canadian Newspaper Association on Wednesday, Feb. 11. You can register online.

Newspapers originally responded to the opportunities of the web by posting print stories online after they appeared in print. Then we recognized the need to post news immediately to the web and started posting newspaper-like stories to the web quickly after an event occurred, perhaps following an immediate bulletin. Liveblogging is a story form for digital platforms, a blend of the styles and techniques of traditional newspaper-style reporting, radio play-by-play and the interactivity of blogging.

 How to liveblog

Liveblogging is a new writing technique, so you can develop your own style. Here are some approaches writers are using effectively:

Write a liveblog in short takes, each time-stamped and posted above the previous one. So a reader checking back for an update will see the freshest take at the top. Readers checking in for the first time midway through the event will need to scroll to the bottom and read up if they want to catch up.

Use CoverItLive or your blogging software to write in real time, answering questions and fielding comments from users as you write.

Individual takes can be short bursts of a sentence or two (if you’re Twittering, you get only 140 characters) or a few paragraphs, depending on the blogging software/platform and the story. Though each take will be part of a chain, try to make it a distinct link that adds a meaningful piece to the story.

For a big, breaking story involving multiple staff members, a single staff member can be assigned to liveblog as reporters file or call in information, just as a rewrite person sometimes pulls together a print story from multiple colleagues.

During a controlled event where you are able to write on a laptop or mobile device, you can use the liveblog as notes, recording every development or quote that you might want to consider for use in a story. A breaking event may not lend itself to continuous liveblogging. You can still file brief updates with major developments. Sometimes you will have down time, perhaps waiting for a press conference with emergency authorities. Use those down times to write longer updates with more details.

Space isn’t an issue in a liveblog. You may have just 12 inches for the print story, but be able to post dozens of entries ranging from a single sentence to a few paragraphs in the liveblog. This doesn’t mean anything goes. You still want to provide interesting reading. But some things that are interesting to someone who is following an event as it unfolds will not be as interesting or important in the summary of that event after it is finished.

A liveblog can be posted directly to the web by the writer or can be edited quickly first and posted by an editor. This requires advance coordination to have an editor ready to move the posts quickly.

Liveblogs of sporting events (sometimes called a “glog,” short for “game log”) build on the rich tradition of live radio and television coverage of sporting events. A sporting liveblog should use that traditional mix of play-by-play reporting with analysis and color. With CoverItLive, the glog can become a running conversation with fans watching on TV or at the game. 

Accuracy remains essential

Liveblogging requires a huge change in our usual standard of completeness. Each take is lacking something, however much you work to make it stand alone. However, you cannot relax your standard of accuracy. If you have reason to use information that you have not been able to verify as factual, attribute and ask the audience what they know about the topic. Ask sources where they got their information and include that explanation. If you have doubts about something, don’t post it yet. Even if someone in authority tells you something, seek opportunities to verify. Tell readers when you’re working to verify something.

 Consider your tone

 The tone of your liveblog must be appropriate to the story you are telling. An athletic event or a community festival can have a light tone that reflects the exciting or festive tone of the event. A liveblog of a contentious meeting or a murder trial should take a serious tone that reflects the event. However, a serious meeting might include a few light moments or humorous asides that wouldn’t fit into the print story (in space or tone) but that work well as individual takes in a liveblog that will turn more serious as the meeting does.

A columnist can share opinions in a liveblog the same as in print or in an opinion blog. A reporter generally should not use a liveblog as an outlet for opinion unless editors agree that opinion is appropriate. Exceptions could be discussed with the reporter’s editor in advance of liveblogging. For instance, a reporter who also writes a column or reviews could use a liveblog for those purposes.

Try some interaction

Seek information, reaction and questions from the audience as you liveblog. As you see something that might make a good lead for the print story, ask the audience whether they think that might be a good way to start your print story. (Even if you and they like the idea, the event’s not over and subsequent developments could move ahead of that first tentative lead, but that’s just another opportunity to seek feedback.)

If you hear someone make a claim that sounds doubtful to you, you might ask whether anyone in the audience has some information on that. Be careful not to express an opinion that someone is wrong; just ask the audience for information that would confirm or contradict: “I had not heard that before. If you have some information on that issue, I’d like to hear from you.”

Seek opinions from the audience. Again, avoid expressing your opinion unless you and your editor have agreed that opinion is appropriate in your liveblog. You can report what just happened or what someone just said and ask, “What do you think of that?” or “How do you think that will work?”

Benefits of liveblogging

Immediacy. A liveblog helps readers follow the action or dialogue at an event as it happens.

User loyalty. A liveblog helps establish your site as the place to go to get the news first.

Traffic. A news story that draws a reader’s attention gets a single page view. A liveblog that draws a reader’s attention gets multiple page views as the reader keeps coming back for updates.

Saving time. If you are covering an event such as a trial, meeting or sports contest, your liveblog can become a combination of your notes and even a rough draft of the story you write for the print edition. You may write your lead or some strong passages in the liveblog that you will be able to cut and paste into the print story. A critic watching a concert might liveblog each song in order, producing several of the paragraphs that would go into a print review. Even if the liveblog style is rougher and choppier than what you’ll want for a single story that flows nicely, you’ll be able to cut and paste some quotes and facts. (This advantage may not apply to a breaking story such as a crime, fire or disaster, where you are reporting more actively than at a controlled event. There you would have to pause from your reporting to liveblog, which may not always be possible.)

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