Covering breaking news online

Breaking news stories often start with just one line and headline and grow into multimedia stories by the end of the day, like this large fire in New Westminster.

Breaking news stories often starts with just one line and a headline and grow into a multimedia story by the end of the day, like this large fire in New Westminster. (CBC)

Sometimes when we cover news online we post one version of a story and that is the final version, until the next day, much like a newspaper.

But online readers expect news stories will be updated right away with the latest details, and if they don’t find what they want on your website, they will go looking on others.

So when covering developing stories for which new information continues to come in during the day, we often need to go back into an online story and rewrite it several times during one day to include the latest news.

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Online research and verification

Ideally all good journalism is based on original interviews and original research, but with so much information available online, journalist often turn to the internet to fill in the missing details of their stories.

After all, when you are looking for facts about someone or something, the internet is a wonderful source of seemingly infinite information on almost anything.

But this leads to a problem for many novice journalists — determining when it’s okay to use facts and information published by others online, and when researching becomes copying or even plagiarism.

By definition journalism — and by this I mean good journalism — is original writing and reporting based on your own interviews, observations, and those gathered by your colleagues in your newsroom.

If you are not basing your stories on original research and interviews, then you are not really doing journalism.

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Social media for journalists

In the past ten years social media has completely transformed the way journalists and media work.

Everybody from police to celebrities to corporations use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to get their news out.

It is routine now for news to break first on twitter, not just by journalists, but by officials and the public.

As a result journalist and media outlets have developed a wide range of ways to use social media. It has become one of the most important tools journalists and news organizations have.

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Search Engine Optimization and tracking on WordPress

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Optimizing your webpages so you get ranked at the top of Google searches is a key way to get traffic to your site. (Google)

A key part of online journalism is making sure potential readers can find your stories easily using Google and other search engines.

It’s called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, and it’s a very simple skill that can pay huge dividends for the success of your website and stories.

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Data Journalism: Using Charts, graphs and data visualization


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This map of bike thefts in Vancouver was created by The Vancouver Sun’s Chad Skelton, who is one of Canada’s top data journalists. (Vancouver Sun)

Data journalism a relatively new kind of journalism that uses the power of computers to find stories in large sets of numbers or data.

It often uses information from government reports or academic studies. It can include geographical, medical, criminal or demographic information.

Before they are graphed the data sets would make little sense to most people, let alone appear to be interesting as a news story. Continue reading

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The art of interviewing

This week we are going to look at getting the human element in your stories.

Interviews are a fundamental part of all journalism. Much of what we write about is how humans live together and the conflicts and interactions we have.

The quotes you get from interview are used in two main ways in a story:

  • To back the ideas you have in the story, by having someone with direct experience or authority on the topic say what they think.
  • To add human interest by showing how the topic affects real people in their lives.

Either way, having strong interviews is critical to getting a good story.  So tonight we are going to look at some of the skills you need to get those quotes. Continue reading

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Embedding in

One easy way to make a blog post more interesting is to add an interactive element like a link, a map, a video, a poll or even a document.

WordPress allows you to create a limited number of these either by pasting a URL in a post, or by embedding what is called  a shortcode.

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The use of images in online news


Photography plays an important roll in online journalism. We’ve all heard the cliché that a picture can tell a thousand words, because it’s true.

That’s because a good picture can make a story come alive. Studies show that images of people’s faces make online readers more interested in story. As humans we can read a lot of information from people’s expression.

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Introduction to online news writing

Online news can be presented in a wide range of formats, from photos and video, to data graphics, but simple words and pictures remain the most popular format for online news.

Traditionally news stories are generally divided into two broad categories: news and features. Common examples of news stories are stories about are fires, shootings, political events.

These stories aim to communicate new and important information as quickly and clearly as possible.  They generally have a factual tone and top-down structure with the most important information coming first. This is called the inverted pyramid style.

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What is online journalism?

What is online journalism and why should we study it? Can’t anyone with access to a computer and the internet create a website and call themselves an online journalist?

The answers to these questions are at the centre of the biggest revolution in news since the invention of live television. Over the past ten years online news has gone from being an after-though in most newsrooms to the mainstream.

It is likely that these days more people in Canada get their news from Facebook than any other single source. And as viewers move online, advertisers follow them.

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