The Boston Marathon explosions, told in real-time

Yesterday was Patriots’ Day in the United States. It was a day that was, for so many, about doing nothing more than crossing a finish line.

Until it wasn’t.

All it took was a moment for people across North America and the world to stop what they were doing and turn their attention to Boston; for yesterday to become a day that sports reporters scrapped routine copy for capturing, filtering and reporting breaking news; for reporters and editors alike to think on their feet and make decisions in real-time. That moment was at 04:09:51 of the 117th Boston Marathon, to be exact, when the first explosion occurred at the finish line of the race.

As we all know, the new reality of breaking news is that journalists tell their readers what they know, as they discover it, in real-time. After all, “if journalism is the first draft of history, live blogging is the first draft of journalism,” as Andrew Sparrow wrote for The Guardian, after liveblogging the entirety of the United Kingdom general election in 2010.

And that type of real-time reporting is what so many newsrooms did yesterday, in the aftermath of the explosions in Boston.

ScribbleLive and Boston.com

Boston.com had been gearing up for its coverage of the marathon for some time. They placed the event in ScribbleLive’s Syndication Marketplace, offering its content about the race for free to any ScribbleLive clients. A dozen or so picked it up.

At about 3 p.m. ET, the explosions happened. 3.11.34 PM Facebook screenshotBoston.com continued to update their marathon liveblog with updates about the blasts, but they also shifted gears, creating a new liveblog dedicated to the explosions in Copley Square. The first post linked to a Facebook photo posted by Boston.com sports producer Steve Silva.

From there, Boston.com posted more photos of the immediate aftermath, maps of the area and where the bombs went off, and provided updates from their reporters on the ground as well as informational posts from official social media accounts to try to amplify their reach.

But Boston.com buckled under the pressure of the traffic that news of the explosions sent its way.

At ScribbleLive HQ, we worked with Boston.com to redirect its homepage to its ScribbleLive white label of the liveblog that they were running. (For those who don’t know, a ScribbleLive white label is where all your Scribble events live. It’s created by scraping a template of your website, and hosted on our servers.)

Meaning: Even though Boston.com went down, they were still able to update their readers in real-time.

The page looked and felt exactly like a Boston.com page, but it was hosted by ScribbleLive. Boston.com continued updating their readers in real-time, with video, photos and text. They tweeted out updates, linking to their developing coverage. They used maps to demonstrate the locked-down area, and they provided updates for people looking for loved ones. Reporters were filing longer stories from the scene of the explosion to the liveblog, and were able to share those individual stories across social platforms using the permalink associated with each post. More examples of reporters’ filing to Boston.com’s liveblog can be found here, here and here.

Yesterday, Scribble was used as we have always intended it to be: As news organizations’ choice for their live content management system.

Extending the reach of the coverage

While these technical things were being sorted out, news organizations from around the world were hungry for content; for trusted updates that they could share with their readers. Boston.com placed their liveblog of the explosion in our Syndication Marketplace as well. What followed was Boston.com’s content, branding and journalists’ names being syndicated on the websites of media properties worldwide. No shortage of ScribbleLive clients produced their own coverage, as well. Reuters, WCVB in Boston, Press Association and CBC produced their own content. A number of clients syndicated coverage from another outlet and added their own local flavour to it. And despite the fact the explosions occurred well into the evening in Europe, a number of our European clients began their own live blogs. Here is how a number of our clients from around the world covered the explosions.

News, in real-time

Producing breaking news is an ever-evolving skill that journalists and editors need to hone. There’s no shortage of questions to be posed when reporting in the moment: What is the news value of this? Am I doing more harm than good? What context can I add? What value can I bring to my audience?

These are age-old questions that journalists have had to ask. The only difference is now journalists are forced to answer them quicker.

A liveblog is only what you make of it—but here at Scribble we think it is a hell of a tool to have at your disposal when you are trying to make those decisions in real time.

Don’t forget: Our digital journalism team here at ScribbleLive offers a number of resources and ScribbleU classes to help make sure your newsroom is prepared for when the news breaks. Find out more about our Basic, Advanced and Breaking News courses and sign up for any of these classes here.

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