Working Breaking News Via BlackBerry


by Anna M. Gonzalaz, @WebAnna on Twitter

When initial reports came into the newsroom about the shootings at Fort Hood, the information was spotty – as it usually is in the beginning. We had all just come out of the afternoon meeting and the assignment editor yelled out the information: multiple soldiers shot; possibly three gunmen on the loose; one gun man may have been caught.

Web producer Kevyn Oakes searched Twitter and other sources for any news of the shootings. Nothing came up. Within minutes the assignment editor on duty had a few facts confirmed: multiple soldiers had been shot on base.

Kevyn and I carefully crafted what we knew in less than 140 characters. The tweet went out and began reverberating throughout the online community.

Meanwhile, reporters were being thrown keys to news vehicles and gathering gear. The assignments weren’t certain yet, but they had to start on their way. The assistant news director looked at me and asked if I was ready. It was a legitimate question. I had only been at the station for four days.

Once on scene, I stuck to my television counterparts to get a sense of what was happening. Most were waiting for press officials, getting ready for live shots in front of the entrance gate, and generally trying to get any information possible.

I got my laptop out and realize there was no power. Without internet access, it made if impossible to send back text, images or video. The good news was, as soon as video was shot, it was sent back to the station and published online. I could put my focus elsewhere.

I got out my BlackBerry and started taking pictures. I called back to the station, where web producer Jessica Sondgough had taken the shift over. Her job consisted of filtering all the information coming in and posting it online. I asked her to now start watching for my emails of pictures and text updates. She started an online gallery and a story based on my updates.  By the end of the night, we had an entire section dedicated to the latest news coming in from Fort Hood.

The breaking news event also marked the beginning of the station’s commitment to online coverage. We now send web producers to every major news event. This frees up reporters to focus on their television coverage. The web producer can focus on taking a multimedia approach to telling the story and getting updates to the site as fast as possible.

Web producers will also share video and sound for the television product, and our reporters are fantastic about getting the story to the Web site with additional resources and media. It’s all part of an effort to move away from being a television station and into a multimedia newsroom.