Legwork, quick wits, and persistence will always remain at the heart of journalism at major news organizations, whether it's at a newspaper, a broadcaster, or online outlet. But today's reporters and editors also rely on technology to find and collaborate on their stories, allowing them to move faster than ever before.
At the top of the list of technology tools proving indispensable to newsrooms today? Intelligent, real-time alerts of key activity in social media that allow reporters and editors to quickly and easily collaborate on stories.
The key to making these elements work seamlessly together is tight collaboration between newsroom staff and the tools they use, particularly those offered by Slack and Dataminr.
Here's how they do it.
Cutting Through the Noise
USA Today was among the first news organizations to discover the value of adding real-time alerts to the workflows of its newsroom staff, thanks to Dataminr.
Dataminr's algorithms continually monitor the half-billion or so Tweets sent out by Twitter users every day, watching for significant patterns. A random Tweet about a possible gunshot might not raise notice by itself, but a burst of such Tweets from the same geographical area over a short period of time could trigger an alert. Depending on how a newsroom has configured Dataminr, the alert would go to particular editors and reporters, who would then apply their own skills and experience to ferret out the story.
Mary Nahorniak, Deputy Managing Editor for Digital at USA Today, said in a National Press Foundation interview that she checks the Dataminr app on her phone each morning before heading into work. Next, she checks email to see if any colleagues have forwarded her any Dataminr alerts of their own.
Once at work, Nahorniak keeps Dataminr running on her laptop, where she scans popup alerts as part of the discovery process journalists employ to identify stories that need coverage. She can then click any alert to dig deeper for context, including information about location, related Tweets, and more to see if it warrants further attention. “I really like having that piece of software just running constantly," she said in the interview.
Getting on the Same Page
It's not enough to merely route a relevant alert to a given editor or reporter. These employees also have to work together to verify sources, check facts, assign stories, and decide whether and how often to update breaking stories.
That's why leading newsrooms route Dataminr alerts through chat channels set up in Slack, in addition to monitoring email alerts and those from Dataminr's native mobile and desktop apps.
With relevant alerts appearing in channels devoted to, for example, breaking news, national news, or sports, the reporters and editors responsible for those beats can get to work collaborating right away, with the same information at their fingertips. That saves precious time in an industry where every minute counts and readership depends on organizations breaking news first.
“We often spin off a Slack channel just for one event," Julie Bloom, a deputy editor on the national desk of The New York Times explained in an interview published in the Times.
“When news breaks, the location tags that appear with the alert in the Slack channel are really helpful to us to pinpoint where we need to send our photojournalists," Pancho Bernasconi, Vice President of News at Getty Images, said of his organization's own process in a case study published by Dataminr.
Today's leading newsrooms rely on tools such as Twitter, Slack, and Dataminr, within their existing workflows, to gather, break, and update news stories faster than they could without them. These tools are available to newsrooms of any size working in any medium, making it possible for technology tools to transform and streamline information-gathering and reporting.