When news breaks, our goal is to get the word out to readers as quickly as possible. Keeping in mind the few limitations we have with Django (which really is not as limiting as it once was), here is how I believe we can best serve our readers in a breaking news situation.

When news breaks, the initial report should be bursted, put into an article and published, shared on Facebook, and tweeted on Twitter. Why? A burst tells readers who come to the front page what’s going on. Twitter and Facebook are the 21st century version of a paperboy or papergirl – someone who stands on the corner yelling “Extra, Extra.” The reason for the article is twofold – it also acts as that paperboy/papergirl for readers who get us through an RSS, and it allows readers who may search for the subject matter to find it. (News bursts don’t do that – bursts only serve readers who come directly to ColumbiaMissourian.com, and that’s only about a third of our readers.)

Put the article in Rim FAST. As updates come in, go with a rolling blog style, much like the Junit group suggested. Keep doing this for as long as the story is “hot” (i.e., for as long as we continue to see regular updates)
The rolling blog style should look like this, per the Junit class:

Breaking news roll from Junit

For Django, the style is likely going to need to be a bit different. My suggestion is to go with something like this (all text reflects what an editor would actually type – no auto-generated stuff here):

Updated at ??:?? p.m. Tuesday
COLUMBIA — Here is the latest information about the breaking news. It should include the latest news, any corrected information and whatever else we deem important enough to tell readers.

Updated at ??:?? p.m. Tuesday
COLUMBIA — Here is the latest information about the breaking news. It should include the latest news, any corrected information and whatever else we deem important enough to tell readers.

Initial report:
COLUMBIA — Here is the first bit of news as we know it with a promise to come back to ColumbiaMissourian.com for more as we find out more. This is also a good spot to ask readers to call us/e-mail us/tweet us with any info they may have seen themselves, if applicable.

Once the story is “cool,” (i.e. the rolling updates are no longer rolling in), the story is likely to change in tone from “holy cow this is breaking right now” to “here’s what happened in Columbia today/yesterday.” This is a good time to start writing a new article. Just remember a few important points:

  • This is an update, so make sure we tell our readers that right away with UPDATE at the start of the headline.
  • Be sure to link back to the original article, both as a related article and embedded in the text. (You can also create a package, which will make it easier to keep all of the stories in the series together.)
  • Make sure that the follow-up story gets shared on Twitter and Facebook. If readers of these sites were interested in the initial reports, they’re likely interested in the follow-up too.
  • Depending on the depth of the story and how much editing attention it needs, the city desk will need to make the decision whether to send the story to FAST or SLOW. We want to be every bit as quick with these “cool” updates as we are with “hot” updates, but these longer pieces may need some extra vetting by the copy desk.

Remember, once a story hits the FAST queue, taking it out the FAST queue should be a last-resort type of option.

Well, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on it. What does everyone else think the protocol should be?