Lessons learned from livebloggers

    Reuters' Japan earthquake liveblog“If journalism is the first draft of history, liveblogging is the first draft of journalism.” That’s straight from Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian’s online senior political correspondent, who famously logged 14,000 words a day in his pre-election liveblogs (his coverage helped earn him a British Press Award for Political Journalist of the Year).

    In an article for Journalism.co.Uk, Sarah Marshall offers liveblogging tips and tricks from some UK newspapers and bloggers, in advance of the site’s News:Rewired conference (Rock Content was there last year). A conference presser reports: “The practice of liveblogging is still youthful, the art of it still being honed. It is in that early stage of rapid development and rethinking. Liveblogging clearly isn’t as simple as throwing everything in and hoping for the best, careful decisions need to made about what stories suit the format, what information to include, how to balance immediacy with verification, and how to mix hard news, analysis, and user-generated content without losing track.”

    Despite being new territory, some news orgs have quickly got into the swing of things. Reuters produced an epic liveblog covering the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, drawing tens of thousands of readers (see photo). Al Jazeera used Scribble’s voicemail and SMS features to get reports out of Egypt when cell and internet coverage was blocked. Others have integrated liveblogs into their every day coverage: Toronto Star readers can get their daily traffic, weather and news fix, and sports nuts can follow The Score’s extensive live game coverage. The list goes on (and on).

    Here are some highlights from Marshall’s article, gleaned from interviews with livebloggers:

    -The audience is part of the story

    -Cover the lead up to an event to spark debate

    -Be transparent about your sources – include links in your reporting (Think Miracle on 34th Street).

    -Be a news anchor – guide readers through the story.

    The final pieces of advice? “Liveblog to provide original journalism,” Marshall writes. She quotes The Guardian’s Matt Wells: “I would throw resources at our liveblogs at the expense of writing another 300 word article. The interesting thing about live blogs is the format native to the internet. The rewards are so great. If you’ve got limited resources, invest in the type of journalism that distinguishes you and sets you apart from the crowd.”

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