Saturday, 8 August 2009

Reporting breaking news using an N95 and social media

I went back to reporting today; there was a fire in Stanley St, Liverpool, and I found myself (quite by accident) on the scene before the road was cordoned off.
Fire engines were parked the length of Victoria Street - there must have been at least 15 there, not to mention police cars and ambulances - and around the junction with Stanley Street were sprawls of rescue teams.



I had a chat with a couple of firefighters while they grabbed a quick glug of tea - both had soot-smudged features and looked very tired - but they were unfailingly cheerful and in full teasing mode. I think it's a requirement of the job that you have to be able to gently mock reporters; in any case, my experience has tended to be that fire crews are the most genial of the blue light services and usually up for a bit of banter.

I had no kit other than my N95 - not even a pen - but I actually didn't need anything else. I shot a bit of video to post to YouTube...



Twitpic-ed...



... and then wangled a quick interview with one of the fire service managers, who was not at all fazed when I explained I had no notebook and could he please read out his statement so I could film it. Not cutting edge journalism (my poor, dying N95 collapsed at one point and needed open-back surgery in the back of the fire van) but it worked fine.



There was some drama in how to share the video; I couldn't get them to upload to YouTube via Shozu for ages due to O2 flakiness. (Another consequence of this was that livestreaming via Bambuser was pointless).
Finally the Post & Echo's head of web, Kevin Matthews (not having the gentle return from holidays he was hoping for, I suspect) was able to access them and get them into the online news article, along with photos from fellow digital team member (and nearby resident, Jo Kelly).

What this little reporting interlude made me appreciate was how reliant I have become on social networks and my mobile phone to share information. I didn't need a notebook, laptop or camera - just Twitter, Twitpic and Youtube, and the other users in my network to help me share it. If only I could have remembered my Ipadio password (I was very cross with myself) I would have posted a podcast report of what was happening too. It was fairly simple, and would have been an absolute breeze if it hadn't been for O2.



It was a real case of putting my money where my mouth was; the previous day I'd given a talk at TEDx Liverpool on Social Journalism, and the use of news networks to share stories. I want to blog on TEDx when I've got my thoughts together a bit more, but it was interesting and fun to have to practise what I'd been preaching so soon afterwards. And it was a lot more fun than writing strategy documents...
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