Live-blogging tips for journalists
Here are tips for journalists on Live-Blogging hearings, trials, community board meetings, press conferences, panels and conferences (hence forth called “events”). Not all the elements listed below are required. Remember there is no orthodoxy on how you live-blog:
Be prepared before the speakers/panelists even begin speaking:
1. Have panelists’ names and titles typed out and ready to use. (Find bios that you can link to).
2. Have the name of the companies, government agencies, NGOs ready too.
3. Have a graph about what the event is about and why it is important enough for you to cover.
4. Have some historical info about the event (how many years has this been going on? Or why was this event being held?)
5. Find links to articles that provide insight for readers leading up to the present.
6. Check if others are live-blogging this event. If you do find others, discuss with them how they plan to tag the coverage.
7. And don’t forget to link to their posts.
What Live-blogging is not necessarily:
1. It is not about transcribing ALL that you hear.
2. It is not wall-to-wall description of ALL that you see.
So what is Live-Blogging?
1. It is about capturing and conveying the essence of the moment to your readers or viewers.
2. It is also about your initial thoughts or reactions to that moment.
3. It is about providing your audience multimedia to give them some sense of being there too.
Here are things you should try to include in your posts:
Describe the atmosphere of the event:
1. Who is in the audience–anyone who adds color or relevance.
2. The location–again if it adds color or relevance.
3. Reactions by the audience while the event is unfolding–both people around you and those at a distance.
4. The interaction between the panelists and audience.
5. The interaction between the panelists themselves–especially moments of tension, interesting exchanges or anything interesting.
6. Look for personal touches!
Link and more links:
1. In addition to those you might have met before the event began, check if others are live-blogging this event (perhaps virtually). If you do find others, link to their posts.
2. Link to sites that have related posts or material.
1. Break up the text with multimedia.
2. Post raw multimedia–from photos, audio and video that depict some of the atmosphere or show relevant interaction.
1. Keep your writing conversational–simple and brief. You are not writing a research paper here.
2. While it does depend on the style of the publication, you are less beholden to spelling and grammar issues while the event is unfolding.
3. HOWEVER, REPORT THE FACTS AND NAMES ACCURATELY. If you make a factual error, strike it out and fix it. But for the sake of transparency, don’t expunge it!
4.Don’t worry about punctuation (upper case-lower case), contractions etc. You can come back and fix these later.
5. You can clean ALL this up later–just remember to tell people early on that you will be doing cleaning up later but that at the moment you just want to convey what’s happening around you as fast as possible.
1. Create a consistent layout.
2. Include a time-stamp before each entry.
3. You might want to include a bold subhead–that summarizes in a few words what the entry is.
4. Do one or the other of the following but stay consistent: Break down each time stamp into a separate post with its own tag OR have all the time stamped entries under one post with a set of tags.
Live-blogging doesn’t end when the programmed portion of the event ends:
1. Interview people in the audience about their reaction and thoughts.
2. Interview the speakers or panelists with questions that weren’t asked or follow-up questions.
3. Post photos, audio and video of things happening away from the center of the scene.
4. Has your audience been asking questions in the comments section? Get the answers and respond to them.
Technical & Logistical Issues:
1. Make sure the batteries for your equipment (cameras, laptops, video, audio recorder) are fully charged.
2. Bring an extension cord and multiple point electrical sockets for charging all your equipment if this is an all day and is likely to last into the night.
3. Get to the event early so you have a good seat–unobstructed view of the stage (for photos or video) and good sound quality for recording.
4. Find out if there is a common tag recommended by those hosting the event. If not, confer with other bloggers to settle on common tags. Social media will help get your posts more readerships.
5. Get there early so you can determine whether there is a wi-fi connection available!
What if there is no Internet access and you don’t have a broadband card to connect? That is a very likely scenario! This is the best you can do:
1. Do all of the above but do so in a word processing application like TextEdit or Microsoft Word.
2. The moment you have access, post it!
3. Here are some free applications that allow you to blog while offline and then directly beam to your site once you are online: ScribeFire for Firefox and Journler.
4. Here are some applications that are not free: Ecto (less than $20) and MarsEdit 2 (about $30).
Here are some examples of live-blogging posts that put many of the things listed above into action:
NYTimes.com: Steelers v. Cardinals
- Guardian.co.uk: Snow disruption in Britain – live
- WSJ: Live-Blogging Tim Geithner’s Confirmation Hearing
- Huffingtonpost.com: Obama’s Inauguration Video, Liveblog, Photos, Information
- News Busters: White House Press Briefing Live Blog
- Chicago Tribune: Live blog: Chicago City Council debating budget
- Think Progress’s Live-Blogging The Senate Iraq Filibuster
- News.com’s Live blog from Macworld 2008
- EW.com’s The Super Bowl commercials live-blog
- BuzzMachine’s Davos08: Bono and Gore
- TVSquad’s Live Blogging The Screen Actors Guild Awards
- Pollster.com’s Super Tuesday Live Blogging
- NYTimes.com’s Live Blogging the L.A. Debate