When and where to break exclusive news

Computer remote image via ShutterstockYou’re working on an exclusive story for tonight and the Web and social media team wants a piece of it, hours before air. Should you share? If you thought that question had been laid to rest years ago, think again. In some newsrooms, the answer still is, “It depends.”

Brandon Mercer, news director at KTXL in Sacramento, has developed a checklist to help his newsroom figure out what to break when and where. Among the key questions is the type of story and its relative value to the TV or online audience.

“If it’s newsworthy, you have to post it,” Mercer says. “If it’s got viral potential, you want to post it.  If it has ratings potential only, you don’t post it.”

So breaking news that everyone’s going to have eventually gets posted immediately, without question. A feature with amazing video that could get picked up everywhere gets posted, too. But an exclusive interview that’s likely to be of interest only to the local audience would be promoted online and in social media without disclosing details, and the full story would be held for air.

It gets tricky, though, when a story is of more than one type, or as Mercer puts it, when the Venn diagrams intersect. Those stories require a conversation and the TV and online EPs have to make the decision together. If they can’t, the news director steps in.

Most stories that are posted online are fed to all social media platforms at the same time. But in some cases, one platform might take priority over another. Here’s KTXL’s approach to different types of stories:

  • Breaking news: Twitter, then website
  • Complex stories of huge community interest: Website, then Twitter
  • Photos: Facebook, then website
  • Raw video: Online video player
  • Discussions and newsmakers: Google+ hangouts

Want an example of online video that went viral? 

Yep. Bird poop. CNN loved it. “If we’re first to get it into the video player, we become the ‘primary source’ and the major newspapers, networks, and affiliates will begin embedding our video player,” Mercer says.  “If we’re late on video?  Even our newspaper partners will embed our competitors’ video.”

Originally published at NewsLab

Computer remote image via Shutterstock