College Media: Covering the Big Story


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A presentation at the College Media Association and Associated Collegiate Press Summer Workshop 2016 on covering natural disasters, major crimes, campus scandals and other breaking news stories.

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College Media: Covering the Big Story

  1. 1. Preparing for the Big Story Rachele Kanigel San Francisco State University ACP/CMA Summer Leadership & Management Conference
  2. 2. Find this presentation at  7/college-media-covering-the-big-story
  3. 3. Types of Big Stories Natural disasters -- hurricane, earthquake, fire, tornado, flood Man-made disasters – terrorist act, major accident, serious crime Major campus stories – a high- ranking official steps down, scandal, suicide, disease outbreak
  4. 4. Collegiate Times Virginia Tech
  5. 5. The Daily Toreador Texas Tech University
  6. 6. The Daily Collegian Penn State University
  7. 7. Before the event Assemble a staff contact list Develop a disaster plan Create a breaking news culture Create cooperative arrangements with other campus media Train for the big story
  8. 8. As the news breaks Editors should:  Assemble a team  Staff the newsroom  Assign a rewrite person  Keep your readers in mind  Think visually
  9. 9. Think about SPEED and DEPTH
  10. 10. Report the news as it unfolds  Post alerts on Facebook, Twitter and your website as soon as you know something  Update website frequently  Post photos on Instagram  Stream video of events (press conferences, vigils, memorial events)
  11. 11. Use social media as a reporting tool  Seek out sources on Facebook and Twitter  Connect with experts on LinkedIn  Seek photos on Flickr  Put social media posts into context; confirm whenever possible
  12. 12. Plan a package  Think beyond a single story – break information into sidebars and infoboxes  If there’s a strong visual element, use multiple photos – in print, online or both  Use maps, timelines and other informational graphics to tell the story  Create a logo for the package  Include an index to direct readers
  13. 13. The Exponent Purdue University
  14. 14. The Daily Orange Syracuse University
  15. 15. Use interactive maps  Show the effects of a storm, earthquake, fire or other natural disaster on a campus or community  Include photographs in the map  Show the path of a gunman or other threat to the community  Plot emergency shelters, first-aid centers, open stores and other services for victims
  16. 16. Use interactive features  Give the community discussion boards or other online vehicles to share information and to vent  Set up memorial sites for people who have died  Create discussion topics on related issues -- Should gun laws be changed? Did the campus deal with the traumatic event responsibly?  Allow people to share their experiences -- where were you when the big one hit?
  17. 17. Mobile formats Create news podcasts for people who don’t have consistent access to computers and/or electricity Establish a mobile alert system Think about how to link to users’ cell phones and iPods
  18. 18. Serving your communtiy  Think about the problems this trauma has created and how technology can help solve them.  What voids can your news organization fill?  What useful information can you collect and share?  How can you use new media to help people connect?  Package your coverage so readers have a one- stop shop for information.
  19. 19. Following up  Assess your coverage  Brainstorm  Editorialize  Make space for letters  Ask why  Don’t drop the ball
  20. 20. Daily Bruin coverage the week after a major flood on campus
  21. 21. Take care of your staff  Get help from campus counseling services  Let students talk through their feelings of covering a challenging stories  Use the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma resources at
  22. 22.
  23. 23. For more information on covering big stories
  24. 24.  Rachele Kanigel rkanigel(at)gmail(dot)com @JourProf This slideshow is available at