How to deal with breaking news online

An intensive course looking at how to best handle breaking news events online, including advice on SEO, approaches to story structure, social media, multimedia and analytics.

Course tutor:
James Murray
Book nowDate: 1 February 2013
Time: 9.30am-12.30pm
Number of places: 10
Venue: Royal Society of Medicine, London W1G 0AE
Cost: £125 (+ VAT)
Level: This course is aimed at anyone looking to expand their online media skills or break into online journalism. You will need to be familiar with using search engines, use news websites as a source of information and have a decent knowledge of website terminology.

Course description

In a fast-paced news environment, breaking stories online with speed and accuracy is one of an online editor’s most sought after skills.

This intensive half-day course looks at best practice for breaking news online with a real-life successful case study as its basis.

Find out how great SEO practice, innovative use of video, social media savvy and effective methods of online writing were used during the Christchurch earthquake (February 2011) to tell a compelling story and boost traffic by one million browsers.

Led by a former editor of, a major television news website, the course focuses on breaking news best practice, helping to make you a sought-after journalist in the modern newsroom.

Course overview

On 22 February 2011, the city of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island suffered a devastating earthquake. One-hundred-and-eighty-five people lost their lives and large parts of a proud city were reduced to rubble. It was the biggest breaking news event in New Zealand’s history and news organisations raced to the South Island’s stricken capital to tell this compelling story and keep the Christchurch public up-to-date with vital civil defence information.

Back in the Auckland newsroom a team of 14 well-honed online reporters put a long-planned online strategy into place that would see tell the nation this story first both visually and in text, hit the top of search engines worldwide and add an extra one million monthly browsers to the site.

This half-day intensive course looks at this real life case study and runs through the successful breaking news techniques implemented by that team.

Breaking news online will be taught using real-life scenarios and then demonstrated through group and individual work. The course is based on a case study of’s work on the 22 February Christchurch earthquake. Attendees will learn all the vital strategies for breaking news online effectively through the lens of this major breaking news story.

As part of the case study we will cover:

  • Basic SEO skills – how the right words, with a little technical know-how, can make your breaking news story the country’s first port of call without turning your copy to mush.
  • Learn how to use social media to keep people informed, garner useful 'on-the-ground' information and draw people to your story
  • The four-pronged approach to stories – how innovative use of text, video, audio and images can bring a breaking news story to life and bring more browsers to your site.
  • Analysing website traffic so you can make rapid editorial decisions based on audience feedback. Use of Google Analytics and Chartbeat.
  • Going LIVE – how to write good multimedia live updates, writing to live streaming video and why micro-cutting video clips can boost traffic.
  • The sushi effect – why raw data is one of the most important parts of telling a major breaking news story.
  • Online sub-editing – effective ways to engage an online audience with your writing. Don’t get hemmed in by the inverted pyramid!
  • Original content – why the internet is not the end of original journalism, why original stories get rewarded and the best way to pitch them to editors
  • HTML – some simple knowledge to help with SEO, layout and appearance of copy

About James Murray:

James MurrayJames is a journalist with four years' experience as the chief editor of, one of the most popular news websites in New Zealand. He currently works as a freelance producer with the Associated Press.

There is nothing he finds more professionally exciting than a newsroom during a big breaking news story.

James inherited as a site that relied heavily on its 6 o’clock news stories and wire copy, with 600,000 unique visitors a month. 

He transformed it into a site known for being first with breaking news, which focussed on original online journalism and innovated with video content, resulting in one million new browsers.

He is passionate about training and how new media can integrate into old, and optimistic about the future of journalism in an online world.

He believes that to be a great online journalist you have to be a great print and television journalist and vice-versa – he dreams of a day when all journalists have truly mastered these skills.
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