Breaking news is big and important and it makes or breaks journalistic reputations. No one can predict when or where it will occur, but here are some basics to help you be prepared for it.

ATTITUDE: See breaking news as an opportunity to do great work of immediate service to our audience, not something that spoiled your plans. Depending on the magnitude of the event, everyone on staff should check in and see how they can contribute to the newsroom’s work  

PLAN: Editors must be prepared to put the staff to work, organizing efforts and updating the story continuously as quickly as possible while assuring accuracy at every step. Remember:

  • News is not in the newsroom. Do not send staff into harm’s way, but get people into the field as quickly as it is safe to do so. They can start live coverage on social, which editors in the newsroom can pick up and incorporate into on-site coverage.
  • Assigned more experienced staff to take feeds from those in the field as well as calling official sources from the newsroom. 
  • Assign one person to primarily update the website as new developments merit. That person is also likely best tasked to craft the full story that stitches together the day’s full events, should such a piece be necessary in editors’ eyes for audience or an upcoming print publication. 
  • Brainstorm with key staff members directions the evolving story may take, to confirm which facts we’re still chasing, how we can nail them down and what follow-ups should be launched. 
  • Big stories are multi-day ones. It’s key to launch coverage quickly. It’s equally important to have a staffing and coverage strategy to stay on top of the extended story in the days/weeks to come.