Live blogging: the next big thing in journalism?

8.35 pm AEST: This blog post draws inspiration from our latest Online Journalism lecture, delivered by ex-QUT journo student Daniel Hurst. Now working at Brisbane Times, Daniel understands first-hand the ins and outs of what is being hailed as the industry’s ‘next big thing’ – live blogging.

So, what is it? A liveblog is simply a blog that provides rolling coverage of a breaking event, similar to the composition of live television and radio. In layman’s terms, print media answers the question, ‘What happened?’, whereas live blogging answers, ‘What’s happening?’, elucidates BlogDon’tLie.com. According to Hurst, journalists should harness live blogging when there is an “unfolding political story or debate, severe weather event, election or sporting game” – to name a few.

Live blogs are easy for interested readers to digest bite-sized updates on an unfolding event. When a story is rapidly unfolding, live blogging is best.

– Daniel Hurst, Brisbane Times

Matt Wells, blogs editor at UK’s most prolific live blogging news organisation, The Guardian, says despite industry leaders disdaining the format as a “murdering traditional reporting”, live blogging is “certainly the most important journalistic development over the past year.” Let’s delve deeper into the phenomenon of live blogging and discuss why it is revolutionising the industry.

Firstly, live blogs enable journalists to post “short, sharp and significant” developments quickly, says Hurst, rather than constantly editing and re-editing original news articles. This in itself is revolutionising the online journalism landscape as we know it.

Secondly, live blog posts can also incorporate a mixture of links, quotes, social media commentary and original material reported by journalists on the ground. This means readers can source everything they could possibly want or need to know about a particular story in one central location. One approach to live blogging can be seen below.

This example was posted on the BBC’s website during the Olympic torch relay in August. The blog included a map that allowed readers to track the olympic torch, watch videos posted by citizens and journalists, and receive up-to-the-minute coverage by following a live stream of timely updates, tweets and photos. The news organisation’s readers were also invited to get involved by texting, tweeting and commenting on Facebook.

Thirdly, a sufficient advantage of the platform is the fact other coverage, including competitors’ news sources and multimedia, can be directly linked in one central location. Hurst affirms interactive updates stimulate two-way conversations between the journalist and the reader, whilst your audience considers the organisation a “reliable source” of news if they are “open enough” to include snippets and links to other sites covering the issue.

Martin Belam, a previous BBC web information architect who now works at The Guardian, says live blogs don’t work for everything. “They give an instant reaction but they’re not authenticated like website news stories. When it does work it makes web pages come to life.”

In sum, live blogging has clearly taken off within the industry, with an array of news organisations adopting the format. Live blogs are providing journalists with the chance to write about events in real-time, whilst receiving immediate and instantaneous two-way feedback from audiences. Therefore, it is clear that live blogging is rapidly evolving as the ultimate embodiment of the journalism industry. Without it, providing accurate coverage in real-time will prove all the more difficult for everyday journalists.

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