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Credit: By Kevin Dooley 
When a big news story breaks, live blogs spring up across most major news sites.

Arguably better suited to breaking stories than the more traditional medium of live TV broadcasts, with liveblogging there's no pressure on journalists to fill screen-time with waffle during the inevitable lulls of a breaking story.

A good live blog offers only updates which are timely and relevant, allowing readers to dip in and out of a story as often as they can without missing out on essential information.

In addition, live blogs can be supplemented by live coverage on social media. At the BBC this is primarily done via the @BBCBreaking Twitter account.

Meanwhile Reported.ly, which launched at the end of last year, publishes stories built only for social platforms such as Twitter, Medium and Storify.

Mark Frankel, assistant editor of social news at the BBC, and Malachy Browne, managing editor and Europe anchor at Reported.ly, share their tips for liveblogging below.

Remind readers of what is confirmed and unconfirmed

The nature of breaking news, when updates may be coming thick and fast from multiple sources, means there may be some confusion over the order of events and what information has been verified.

It's really important to take your audience with you in these storiesMark Frankel, BBC
Such was the case in last month's terror attacks in Paris, when NBC News incorrectly reported that one suspect had been killed and another two were in police custody.

The BBC's live blog on the attacks generated more than 17,500 tweets and 6,000 Facebook posts, according to howmanyshares.com.

Frankel noted the need to bear in mind that readers will be joining a live blog at different points and may not be fully up to speed with everything that has happened.

In its live blog of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the BBC took great care to "ensure that we kept people informed of developments," he said, "but also to update people on the information that had been confirmed and the information we were still looking into."

"I think it's really important to take your audience with you in these stories and to remind them of both what you know and what is yet to be confirmed," he added.

Attribute every piece of information

"You continually need to attribute every piece of information that you get and not forget that," said Frankel.

It might seem like an obvious point, but it's one which can be missed in a fast-updating story.

It's important to be clear about where information has come from, explained Frankel, because if that information is subsequently corrected or you need to update it, you have not tried to claim that it was absolutely right in the first instance.

Quality over quantity when it comes to updates

It goes without saying that a live blog is not intended to be a fire hose, spewing out anything using a certain social media media hashtag when news breaks.

Frankel noted that when information is coming in fast, it is better to wait a little bit and "get that information straight" – essentially establishing what is known and what is unknown – than to "rush to put that information out".

He underlined the importance of "not [being] too quick to update from every single source if you haven't managed to establish the facts clearly on the ground".

Frankel added that what news outlets such as the BBC bring to live blogs is "a trusted narrative, on a fast-moving developing story".

"They could stay on Twitter if they just wanted to see things in a raw unfiltered form," he added.

Get close to the story

Reported.ly uses a range of social media platforms in its reporting. The outlet's Storify of the attack on Charlie Hebdo's office In Paris earlier this year has been viewed 5,800 times.

Find the sources who are as close to the story as possibleMalachy Browne, Reported.ly
Becoming an expert on advanced search techniques on social media is essential for getting to the root of a story, said Browne.

"Find the sources who are as close to the story as possible, that's what social media allows you to do," he said.

Browne advised journalists to get to grips with the "search terms and the various different search techniques and tools that are out there". 

Here's a Journalism.co.uk screencast on creating advanced search columns in Tweetdeck.

Make Google Hangouts your virtual office

In modern day newsrooms, it's not unusual for journalists to not be based in the same office or even the same country as their colleagues. The Reported.ly team, for example, spans 10 different time zones.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attack, "the first thing we did was jump on a Google Hangout so we could communicate in real-time rather than instant message each other and lose valuable seconds," explained Browne.

Working in this way also reduces the risk of duplicate updates where two journalists or more are working on the same live blog or Storify, as colleagues can announce when they are about to create a post or when information has been verified.

Prepare, prepare, prepare


Browne also noted the value of curating Twitter lists of official sources to help journalists verify what events have been confirmed and what is unknown when it comes to breaking news.

"I think this story [Charlie Hebdo] suffered a little bit from that," said Browne.

"There was a lot of information coming out about people who had been killed, injured and so forth that wasn't confirmed, that was coming from people who were posing as emergency services."

Storyful, where Browne was previously news editor, has curated more than 560 Twitter lists for various locations and topics.

"I think if you put in the effort when you're not that busy to maintain these lists you'll reap the rewards when it does get busy, because you've got the right people at your fingertips to listen to," he added.

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