Tag Archives: station KPBS

For disaster reporting – change your site template and turn on social media mode

The wildfires that are raging through California and have caused half-a-million people to be ordered from their homes have encouraged news providers to ditch their normal website formats and go into wholly innovative crisis-reporting mode.

Having a design format for breaking news that’s significantly different from the usual run of breaking news helps draw attention to the scale and importance of the story.

Cluttered websites like 10news.com and KNBC.com – Cory Bergman at Lost Remote points out – have failed to get over the magnitude of the events.

Adopting a unique layout for the home page – Corry adds – can also allow more content to surface:

“If you build a breaking news layout ahead of time, it’s not that much work to execute it when the story breaks. Just flick the switch. TV sites should own breaking news, and a flexible, content-driven design plays a big part.”

It’s something BBC News also does for big stories. It abandons the usual format of running a lead and to sub-lead stories, replacing them with a single large image to direct attention to a specific story.

Sites like the LA Times and MSNBC have adopted a similar approach for the fires. The Times has a photo gallery on its front page, along with links to its interactive maps, evacuation info and quick stats on the carnage the fires are causing.

Homepage design aside, devices for reporting the breaking news On The Fly have caused some news providers to ditch the usual tools and wing it with social media.

As we posted yesterday, radio station KPBS is using Twitter to do ‘Real-Time Updates’ on its website and to direct readers to local authority announcements, its Google Map of the fires, traffic updates and addresses for evacuation centres.

News 8, a CBS affiliate in San Diego, has even (thanks to Martin Stabe @ the Press Gazette for the point) taken down its normal website and replaced it with a rolling news blog, with links to YouTube videos and necessary/emergency information.

One of those uploaded videos is from journalist Larry Himmel, who reports on his own house being destroyed:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKGF2bbxQ6E]

Twittering the Californian bush fires

Two Twitter users in San Diego, California, have been posting updates on wild fires sweeping the south of the state.

Users Nate Ritter and Viss have combined eyewitness updates on the state of the fire with useful info for locals, like evacuation procedures and meeting points, showing just how well this device can be used in a news environment.

Yes, there are limitations: you have to know about Twitter before you’d come across something like this, and (as Ritter’s last Tweet says) at some point your Twitter correspondent may have to go to bed.

Still these guys, who are also posting photos of the fires to Flickr, seem to be providing more frequent updates than the mainstream media – bar local radio station KPBS, which has got in on the Twitter action too.

Not only do KPBS’ Tweets feature on their main site as a ‘Real-Time Updates’ section, but the outlet goes even further in showing off Twitter’s scope using alerts to direct readers to local authority announcements, a url for a Google map of the fire, traffic updates and addresses for evacuation centres.

Figures are frequently the focus of these alerts and these are later fleshed out into full-blown news pieces.

KPBS obviously sees the one service complementing the other, but other news organisations may disagree: why ‘leak’ breaking news through Twitter first? Because a local readership will return to the site again and again for the public information aspect of the service and stay for the more in-depth news analysis.

Whether KPBS uses Twitter on a day-to-day basis or has rolled it out for this special news event I’m not sure, but I’d like to know whether other papers are employing the device and in what ways?

How does the editorial process work and what are the limitations/freedoms for journalists of writing news alerts like this?