Lukas, I believe you were roaming the streets of Berlin on election day, is that right?
The value of having liveblogging is that social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) tell a very wide story, but the blog gives people a central place to go... And, of course, to get results. People check in and out during the day, but when it's results time, they want news and they want it FAST. We try to give them that while still keeping tabs on other issues, like long lines at the polls, broken machines, last-minute GOTV operations, and so on. In that way, we personalize the experience for the reader beyond the standard speeches, which they have gotten plenty of in the runup to the elections.
I was - interviewing regular people.
In Canada, it's against the law to release results nationally (or outside the region in question) before the polls close, which has made us experts at killing time before there are numbers to crunch!
Ha - and the best way to kill time?
That was interesting, because you integrate an age old local-beat-technique to your blog.
I spent election day answering questions from voters on twitter over what was and wasn't allowed at polling stations. (Our elections agency isn't on social media, so I ended up fielding a whole lot of angry questions about stuff like candidates' websites still being online despite it being e-day.)
That sounds like a pretty hefty workload...
Robin: Voter turnout! Complaints about polling station hours! Predictions!
In our case, we have several print editions -- let's not forget print -- and some of them have to be in production well before we can expect results. In that case, we can do contextual stories that don't have to be hung on the actual outcome for the early editions.
We also had reporters at all the leaders' headquarters, of course, so they could add colour from the various hoped-for victory parties.
Celeste, that's perfect - you've just offered the best segue into a question from a reader...
Hi lillomontalto - thanks for your question...
We were blogging and at the same time publishing regular online articles, it's a question of manpower.
Well, I work for a broadcast media outlet, but we, too, are obliged to crank out longer analytical 'day after' pieces. Generally, though, the writers responsible for those aren't expected (although are welcome) to contribute heavily to the live coverage.
Our friend Lillo is talking about the challenge of balancing print and digital, but as Lukas doesn't work with print I think we can broaden it to talk about the need to keep people up-to-date with the freshest information - on Twitter and liveblogs - while also writing more considered, analytical pieces...
In the case of our most recent primary elections in New York City, we had some pre-game materials set up by our excellent digital team. When we were ready to start liveblogging, I opened when the polls did - at 6 a.m. We had reporters and photographers on the street right at the beginning, plus reports from our readers about what was and wasn't working.
I don't think there's anything wrong with incorporating reports/colour from the liveblog into the eventual print/pixel wrapup piece, though. It's no different from wire services doing writethrus throughout the day, to my mind.
We cut our staff up for the event, with different roles. Some are blogging live, some cover the facts, some are analysing - using the information from the other two.
Absolutely - a lot of people talk about using the liveblog as their notes for the subsequent articles.
In this round of elections here in New York, everyone has agreed (thankfully) on the common hashtag of #nyc2013, which makes it easy to search for contributions (and communicate with each other) on social media. We follow the candidates, the government agencies associated with the elections and, especially, the voters in this way from an electronic standpoint. Our team of reporters are then out on the streets capturing the electorate's actual experiences.
Lukas makes a great point: Editors really need to look at assigning specific livebloggers as well as traditional beats/reporting lines. That doesn't mean you can't pull from your entire team, but it takes some of the pressure off if there are reporters who can dedicate all their time and energy to the live coverage.
To Robin's last point, that's why having a narrative is important. A liveblog is a natural timeline, but it's also critical to try to tell an overarching story rather than just have a Twitter wall or random observations.
Exactly! But While blogging you gather different stuff from your print colleagues - which we pour into different articles in the end.
Celeste: Absolutely. There's a real skill to weaving a narrative into a liveblog that will make it enjoyable/informative to read the following day.
That's a great quote Celeste - narrative, rather than an interminable flow of information is extremely important
We also do the same thing in pulling anecdotes and quotes from our liveblog participants into our print coverage. We will often have a sweeping main story with sidebars about individual candidates, an analysis piece, graphics and so on for our spreads.
It gets even more challenging when you have a live chat going as well!
And Kady, yes - I think real-time is much more respected now that it was previously when the least experienced people were put on the live report as it was deemed the least important.
The people on the ground also provide not only the nuts and bolts of the reporting, but the atmospherics that make the coverage vivid (ie you can imagine the difference between what I saw at Mitt Romney HQ on Election Night 2012 and what my colleagues saw at President Obama's event...)
So many departments, so many platforms - I can imagine it gets difficult to balance them all and get them working harmoniously with a good workflow...
I'd like to think so, yes! I know we definitely plan our liveblogging coverage with an eye to ensure we don't pull in 19 different tweets offering the same information.
Kady, any trick how to ensure this? In the heat of the moment...
Re Celest - it's one of the most important aspects of live coverage - the ability to communicate feeling and atmosphere easily rather than just facts!
Traffic can be a problem, but we have really experienced people who regulate the flow. Again, that's where having anchors can be helpful. So we'll have maybe one or two people anchoring, someone regulating the feeds we get from the field, someone else monitoring social media, someone creating photo galleries...
Lukas - We usually try to work out in advance who will handle specific things -- someone will tweet in highlights from speeches, say, and someone else will do the results as they come in. (I always get colour.)
Setting out a solid strategy in advance seems like an essential element of election night.
We are also big fans of hashtag filters, which lets reporters share info with their stream *and* the liveblog, depending on the item of interest.
Exactly, Kady and Robin. Our people run themselves ragged, so we have LOTS of material to work with. Organizing it makes it a better experience for the readers (and for us).
Roles, roles. roles, yes. And essential: Somebody who reads and checks it all constantly - to avoid mistakes that must happen, when typing on a mobile phone.
Exactly. And if reporters are worried that they won't be able to keep their followers up to date on everything that's going on, they can leave off the hashtag when tweeting outside their temporary realtime beat.
I've got another question, this one is less specifically about live election coverage but more about political reporting in general.
(Reporters, after all, are pretty much hardwired to report, so it's hard to ask them to just ignore something happening right in front of them.)