Winning Breaking News and Breaking Weather stories consistently can be a game changer for a station trying to capture market dominance. Living the brand goes beyond just good promotion and a catchy positioning statement... It includes being prepared for the unexpected.
Just after lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon, most local newsrooms are operating with a skeleton crew. Does your weekend staff know how to react in the event of a disaster? How quickly can your newsroom publish information to the web, send a mobile alert and get on the air to establish coverage?
Winning Breaking News is Always a Team Effort
- Getting on-air without a fully staffed control room team.
- Quickly beginning the process of calling in additional staff.
- Launching the Helicopter (if applicable)/Deploying any bonded cellular Live gear ahead of Live vehicles.
- Aggressively updating online information.
- Ensuring promotions has a plan for weekend coverage in the event of major breaking news.
- Technical Considerations:
- How are you captioning or otherwise visually telling the story on screen for the hearing impaired?
- Are crews in the field able to get a mixed-minus IFB feed when bypassing the control room?
- Can you get a phoner to air if you had to?
Before the end of my first week, I had a decommissioned ENG camera put back into service and mounted on the wall in the newsroom. It represented the first step in us becoming the Breaking News/Breaking Weather station.
The availability of traffic and publicly accessible cameras has never been greater. Everyone in house should know how to bring these cameras up and get them to air at a moment's notice. When realistic, crews in the field that aren't in vehicles capable of live transmission should have some means of transmission whether its bonded cellular technology or something as crude as an iphone.
Be aggressive at sending out that Breaking News alert. It serves a great driver to both on-air and online. When possible, make sure it's linking to an article, so as not to send the consumer on a fact finding mission elsewhere.
In the fervor of activity, are you adequately covering your web page as well as your social media channels? Are you driving coverage back to the station properties through links?
This is a two way street. As we know, social media has made us as media organizations more easily accessible than ever before. Loyal viewers are often in the right place at the right time and more than willing, in fact excited, to share their experiences, pictures, and videos. Of course this comes with the cautionary disclaimer to make absolutely sure you have vetted any pictures or video thoroughly before taking them to air.
This also presents an opportunity to showcase specific reporters who are covering the big story for you. Include in your news articles the twitter handles of the actively tweeting reporters who are on the story. Make sure the news department is retweeting their reporters when they have a big nugget of information.
Streaming Raw Feeds
Quality Content Remains King
It's important to look for opportunities for to delivery relevant sidebars. Of course localize the story, but almost everyone either flies or know someone who does. There is still a lot of information to come out of a story like this, but a lot of that will be dependent on the hard work of journalists digging into information such as the pilot's history and other potential warning signs, if any existed.
It goes without saying, but dumb mistakes just kill your credibility. In the heat of the moment, you can easily make a typo. The team must understand the magnitude of a mistake that they may shrug off as "just a typo."
Think back to the J-School professors that would fail you for one error in fact. I don't believe in making a staff live in fear of their job, at the same time, they must understand mistakes like this just won't be tolerated.