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15. Covering live events

Is there an art of reporting inherent to the web ? A multimedia journalist is a reporter like the others, but he also needs to have a sense of live broadcasting and conversation, as these are essential to properly cover an event.

Broadcasting live video

A media of streams and archives, the Internet allows you to create evolving articles. From the first tweet signaling the beginning of a protest to the detailed analysis of its success (or failure), the Internet uses all formats. Its reactivity and adaptability make it the ideal medium to cover live events.

Indeed, a web-reporter can describe an event while it’s going on, without needing more than a smartphone. With this kind of phone you can film the protest, interview the leaders, take their picture…etc. That is if you can send your pictures and text, and therefore have access to a working connection and enough bandwidth, of course. This means you have to make short video extracts (no longer than a minute) are an easy-to-send series of pictures. Networks are often completely saturated in the vicinity of a protest, because of the huge amount of simultaneous communications in the same space.

Watch out for gaffes. The major risk of such a coverage is to hurry, to send what you believe is accurate news but is only an impression or something you spotted. The smallest the delay between the event and its telling, the bigger the risk of making mistakes becomes.

Livetweeting

Telling a story right as it’s happening by a series of 140 character long messages implies you master both excellent synthesizing and quality storytelling. This is an exercise similar to redacting the “URGENT” in news agencies wire feeds : no fancy words, no stylistic flourishes, no wordplay. Stick to the facts with classical construction. Pierre Lazareff’s (a legendary French press mogul who didn’t know the Internet) motto fits Twitter perfectly : “A sentence is subject-verb-object. Warn me before using an adjective. First adverb and you’re fired.”

Even though Twitter invites you to share your personal feelings, be wary of this no-filter, direct expression tool. Ban ironic formulas, they can be confusing. Irony always is a double-edged sword. Its reading is ambiguous at best. Behind cutting words hides an imaginary background your reader might not understand, or interpret in a way that the author did not mean at all.