The Lifecycle of a News Story

I rediscovered a link on my Delicious recently, called the Lifecycle of a Blog, from Wired, which traces how a post goes from the author’s keyboard through the system into a subscriber’s RSS reader. It’s here if you’re interested.

Anyway, that sent me off on a bit of a tangent; I started wondering about the lifecycle of a news story, and how online tools have improved the ways journalists can source, tell and share our news. And of course, how we can get our audience to be a part of it.
I want to create a presentation for reporters on the subject so I’ve gathered some thoughts on the potential ways of sourcing, presenting and sharing news articles here. If you have suggestions please add as it would help me illustrate my point:

Step One
Reporter gets potential story (Web 1.0)
Via: Phone call or meeting with contact; letter to the editor; email; comment on the newspaper’s web forum; item in a publication or website; video on YouTube; punter walking in to the front office and asking to speak to a journalist.

Reporter gets potential story (Web 2.0)
Via: Any of the above PLUS link posted on a social network; RSS feed of news and message board posts;status update or link on a micro-blog; Twitter search;search of blog posts;comment on the reporter’s blog; online forums; email/post/link via the reporter or newspaper’s Facebook page; a podcast; online searches;threaded video debate; an incident live-streamed onto a website.

Step Two

Reporter researches story (Web 1.0)
Phones/meets contacts to verify information; searches Google for background/experts; finds expert and emails questions; includes response in article; sets up photo opportunity with picture desk; writes article and sends to newsdesk.

Reporter researches story (Web 2.0)
Crowdsources idea using social networks; uses blog searches and blog translators to find posts and experts worldwide; uses own blog to post developing and ask for input and suggestions from readers; sets up online survey and poll (promotes these using links to it from own blog, Facebook page and online forums); posts links and questions on specialist messageboards; searches social bookmarking tools for related issues; uses video discussion site to seek views; records telephone interview for podcast; collates findings and discusses package with print and digital news editors; films video report; begins writing detailed, analytical article for print product, accompanied by quality images – some found by picturedesk searching photo-sharing websites’ Creative Commons pool.

Step Three
Presentation (Web 1.0)
Newsdesk checks copy, adds come-on for readers to send their views via email or letter to the editor, or via the onlinjavascript:void(0)e forum, sends to subs for layout on page. Content and photo uploaded onto website following morning after publication of print product.

Presentation (Web 2.0)
Copy checked by newsdesk for content, style and reporter’s email, phone number, blog url, keywords for tagging and postcode for geo-tagging, along with relevant links; sent to subs for layout on page; package uploaded to website; link placed to story in newspaper’s forum; copy chunked online to hold readers’ interest; video report embedded in online version; image slideshow with reporter’s voiceover; downloadable podcast offered; reporter blogs on outcome of story and links to associated news stories and external blog posts; words, links, video and images combined in Dipity timeline and embedded on website; updates with links posted on social networks; video report uploaded to newspaper’s YouTube Channel; images placed on newspaper’s Flickr group; reporter hosts readers’ Q&A with expert in online chatroom hosted by newspaper; article leads the morning and midday news bulletins on newspaper website; Googlemap offers locator plus internal and external links to associated issues.

Step Four

Sharing the story (Web 1.0)
Newspaper sold on streets for around 12 hours; shovelware story and images remains on website’s main page until overtaken by more news; readers may find it using search facility in future; radio may pick up story and report (without crediting source); forum members debate issue briefly; readers discuss story with family, friends or colleagues.

Sharing the story (Web 2.0)
Newspaper sold on streets for around 12 hours; online news story has an SEO-ed headline to ensure maximum visibility in searches; story and links seeded on appropriate websites; RSS subscribers sent article and links to associated content; headline and link to content promoted via Twitter feed; article included on e-newsletter sent to subscribers with link back to website; placed on news widget for readers to add to their own webpage; video report on newspaper’s website, YouTube and embedded on Facebook page and reporter’s blog; online package promoted on website front page with links; web forum moderator encourages comments and promotes topic; content highlighted on social bookmarking sites; content features in the ‘top 5’ of web blurb in following day’s newspaper.
In addition to this online readers might: Share the article by emailing links to contacts; post their views on external message boards and link back; blog about the article and link; Tweet and link; save it to their own social bookmarks or Digg existing version; join the newspaper’s Flickr group, Facebook page; forward e-newsletters; add the news widget; or just talk about it…

Step Five
What next (Web 1.0)
Forum comments might be reverse published in a ‘From Our Forums’ column; potential ring in from reader with a follow-up tip.

What next (Web 2.0)
Reporter monitors: Blog traffic for activity and routes; uses online search tools – for alerts, external messageboards, Tweets and blog posts – to see who, where and how the article is being discussed; comments and reactions arrive via blog, external forums and newspaper’s own, social networks, YouTube ratings, video debate sites, Twitter…
Reporter gets several new lines of investigation and begins using online tools again to research these emerging stories.

I had no idea when I started doing this how thin the ‘old’ opportunities for investigating stories would look compared to the tools at our disposal now; it’s quite stark really. It drives home just how important mastering these tools is for journalists as our industry continues to develop and change.

26 thoughts on “The Lifecycle of a News Story

  1. Alison, they should make this post mandatory reading for all journalism students and lecturers.The sad truth is that many colleges only make it to about web 1.2 when it comes to reporting and these are the skills you need to really get ahead.Would you employ someone, a good reporter, who didn’t know anything about 2.0 techniques listed here?


  2. The life or newspapers would be greatly extended if what you suggest did actually happen.I am guessing this is why the newsroom needs to be revolutionalised to have all reporters trained with a greater understanding of the digital world.I look forward to see what happens in Liverpool with the new changes.


  3. Hi Alison, all these tools are great and their potential is clear, but to what extent are they currently being used? Looking at the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">latest news stories on the Daily Post site<>, it seems like the same mix of press releases and crime stories you’d have seen five or ten years ago.How long before the Daily Post publishes a story that has been sourced from a ‘threaded video debate’ for example? (I’d love to hear that this is already happening).Good luck with the presentation, the Daily Post site will be fantastic when it starts to properly harness these tools.


  4. @Patrick I do know what you mean but if someone was a good reporter, and open-minded, I guess it would be down to me to invest time in helping them learn new ways of working; I owe a lot to people who invested time and effort in helping me. @anonymous I think that’s why training and investment in staff by newspaper companies is vital. Also, giving people time to explore online tools and try them out is so important… but in a busy newsroom how many of us have the luxury of doing that? @billy I’d love to tell you threaded video debates were happening at the Post but the answer is… not yet. I’d like to see us hosting such things but in the meantime we have tried out crowdsourcing on Seesmic but the response was limited. I think as more of these sites move to open beta that will change. I was concious when I wrote this that it was very much an ‘Ideal Scenario’ opinion – every regional newspaper operates within the realms of the possible, the achievable, and the viable. Here I just wanted to jot down the <>potential<> ways of sourcing, telling and sharing stories that exist. If a reporter uses just a couple of these tools and it works, they will hopefully be encouraged to try out some more.


  5. I would also add it is not just the reporter who has to be interested in the new tools and ways of working.Someone in a position of responsibility within the newsroom has to be too, and champion their use, as well as making time for reporters to take a breath and utilise the web.If not, the eager web 2.0 reporter can all too easily be told to get back on with writing stories – end of discussion.Change in newspapers is not bottom up, however much we might wish it, and not everyone is lucky enough to work for / with someone like Alison (I am though, and she’s my mate too, so I’m alright!);-D


  6. Would a reporter really be able to do all that in the time available to them, no matter how motivated and well trained they were? It sounds wonderful, but I don’t see how people would be able to work on more than one story a day, and they don’t have that luxury.The workload in most newsrooms rarely allows for “writing detailed, analytical article”, let alone the rest of it.Your ideas may well be the right ideas if any business was willing to invest in them, but I would be even more interested in discussion about how reporters could make the most of web 2.0 in the newsrooms they actually work in.


  7. inHi, can I kick off by saying what a great post this is. I wanted to contribute one thing. In the example given the work to encourage debate etc is carried out by a “moderator”. Wouldn’t it be great to see reporters/writers participating in these forums more? I understand the reluctance – a mistrust of trolls and abuse etc. but surely if we’re big enough to put stuff out, we should also be prepared to take a bit of criticism on the chin. After all, this online community is as much our readership as the anonymous one-way recpients of the print product it’s just we can’t hide behind the letters to the editor any more.Anyway, enough hobby horse!!!I think Captain Mac’s response is key to this whole debate: “Someone in a position of responsibility within the newsroom has to be too, and champion their use, as well as making time for reporters to take a breath and utilise the web.”So true. After all, what’s stopping the scenarios you describe above being more commonplace? Certainly not the technology.To finish, all I can say is I hope you’ll put your final presentation on slideshare – that way you’ll save me a job when I get back to the newsroom training beat next week.Well done.


  8. The Liverpool Post may not be using all these techniques yet – but I’ll bet your list means it’s already miles ahead of many newsrooms. @anonymous(2) My experience suggests once reporters buy into using these techniques, they often find it starts to save them time. It’s a snowball effect – once you get your readers on side with Web2.0, they will bring you stories – often better, more relevant ones than half your Web 1.0 sources.Having said that, I think there’s definitely a case for some of the presentation and sharing tasks to be carried out by staff other than reporters – in the same way print newspapers have graphics departments and newspaper sales teams. And Alison’s lifecycle doesn’t specify reporters should be carrying out all these tasks. Maybe as online becomes increasingly more important, then these parts of the business will start working in these areas in the same way news, and now sales teams increasingly are?


  9. This a very interesting, Alison. I’m a former newspaper reporter, sub-editor, editor now working with the Australian journalists’ union researching (and trying to get my head around) journalism 2.0 and its implications for our industry. While the bulk of what I am reading is “woe is me” this is a concise and positive look at the way we should be thinking. Thanks, and if you can help with tips about training modules for mid-career journalists, do get in touch.


  10. Jo, thank you very much for your reply. This is anonymous2 here – anonymous because being cynical about social media isn’t a good career move at the moment.But I’m not actually cynical about social media, just about the tendency to draw up wish-lists without giving the same level of thought to the practicalities. The issue of staffing isn’t a small one, it’s the key issue. If journalists aren’t embracing these ideas, it’s not because they are scared of computers.Maybe it’s different on the Liverpool Post, but reporters on most regional papers don’t have time to do a great job, given the amount of copy they need to produce, even when they focus solely on text.I don’t see how the process Alison sets out could actually be quicker than the traditional way of working. As well as writing a detailed, analytical piece, reporters are going to be contributing to a blog, message boards and Facebook, and monitoring the responses; searching social bookmarking sites; recording a podcast; blogging on the outcome of the story; hosting a chatroom session, and potentially more.I realise that this is presented as an ideal scenario, and that some of it could be done by other people (although most of it would need to be done by journalists, it seems to me – and who are these other people anyway?). But to suggest that this would *save time* is not realistic.Don’t assume I’m anti-social media. I’m not – I want to use it, and I want other reporters to use it.That’s why I think we need to have more discussion about how newsrooms can use social media and the full joys of web2.0 given the staffing and budget constraints they face in the real world.


  11. Alison, we just loved your post! Sounds incredible how much we’ve changed -and learned, and gained- lately. We published it translated to Spanish and of course quoting you. Congrats from Spain.


  12. @SarahH fair point- reporters could and I think will use forums more in future (although the trolls issue is a tough one!)@jowadsworth your newsroom is a good example of what I was trying to illustrate in the post; I’m always interested to see what you’re trying out. @anonymous2 I understand why you’re anonymous although it’s a sad reflection on some newspaper leaders – surely the best way to explore the future is to, well, disagree sometimes and thrash it out? Anyway I also agree with some of your points – there ISN’T enough time for one reporter to do all these things. But, I would counter that one reporter doesn’t have to – the internet will do it for him/her.I’m going to take your comment: “As well as writing a detailed, analytical piece, reporters are going to be contributing to a blog, message boards and Facebook, and monitoring the responses; searching social bookmarking sites; recording a podcast; blogging on the outcome of the story; hosting a chatroom session, and potentially more.”Yep, that’s a lot to do. I use <><> to post one message simultaneously across any of several micro-blogs, to Facebook status updates, and onto blogs. It even shortens the link url automatically. I use <>Spinvox<> to phone my blog post direct to this blog (or post a podcast using <>Utterz<> which I can then lift the code and embed on sites I choose) and I also use Spinvox to ‘blast’ a message to a myriad of social media sites so I can reach people. I search tags on <>Delicious<> (it takes seconds to trawl the entire site and bring me pages relevant to, say, my search on knife crime) and I built a <>Yahoo Pipe<> to bring RSS feeds for media news, blogs, messages etc to my <>Google Reader<> (you can also see the news feed on this blog). Would hosting an hour-long chatroom on a <>liveblog<> be a drain on time? I don’t think so. The blog is be pre-embedded on the website, a reporter acts as a host to a discussion by participants, contributing where appropriate. There’s no story to do afterwards as the blog is a complete record for anyone to re-read at any time. I’m not dismissing your views; I’ve worked as a regional journalist for 20 years, from a trainee reporter to a deputy editor, and I’ve had days when I was so busy that lunch was at 10pm. But… what I wanted to point out in the post above was that there are new ways of story-telling – sometimes they make the story better, sometimes they make it faster, or easier, or just more fun for the writer and reader. We can’t do it all but I think – I hope – we can do something because, to be frank, we have to.


  13. Two things. Firstly, with Trinity Mirror moving print production of the Post and Echo to Oldham, reporters will have even less time to do all the things that Alison has listed. No doubt deadlines will be brought forward to accomodate the loss of at least an hour in transporting the papers from Oldham to Liverpool.Secondly, this is all great and exciting, but no one has really commented about the quality of the stories or which, in particular might lend themselves more readily to all of these Web 2.0 possibilities. Some stuff works. Some stuff doesn’t. Making those choices is another part of the 21st century journalists job. However, can someone, somewhere, please talk more about the quality of the content.In the end the content should help decided what formats are suitable. Shouldn’t it?PS Alison – on sources, you misssed those regular prehistoric staples… boring council agendas and reports and meetings, etc, etc. I can’t remember whether you included press releases even?!Surprising about the council reports since the Boy David is so phenomenally good at these (as well as all the other sources obviously….)


  14. To me this is somewhat apples and pears, particularly when it comes to sections such as presentation.As far as text and audio go, fine maybe, but video is still a whole new ballgame. The time it takes to put together a (decent) video report: obtaining the proper sources for that both in terms of interviewees and pictures, editing it together – it takes time. This goes for 1.0 and 2.0 – it’s the difference between print and broadcast, and it’s why a print journo can churn out several more stories a day than a broadcast journo can.My opinion on online video reports is that unless the pictures are stunning, or the interviewees are super famous or super interesting, you’re better off with stills and text, or a slideshow. Wallpapering is just a waste of bandwidth. Likewise talking heads of inarticulate public officials, etc.And there are also vast costs involved in serving anything decent looking (YouTube looks like hell most of the time).A fairer comparison would be between a 1.0 TV news report that gets converted to a 2.0 online video report, with all the associated bells and whistles – text version, comments, RSS, etc.Put it this way: I can’t see how a job that involves writing one detailed news feature a day in any way compares to a job that involves putting together a high quality video news report and a detailed written version in a day. Something’s got to give. (Or you need to hire several more people).At the end of the day you have to monetise your news somehow. The costs of video production may be a fraction of what they used to be, but they are still immensely more demanding than text or audio.


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