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Spot news reporting tougher than ever with 24/7 coverage

Hal Davis of the Pioneer Press and Caroline Lowe, formerly of WCCO-TV and now working in California, are quoted about how news reporting has changed.

Covering spot news has changed dramatically in the Internet era, with the 24/7 news cycle requiring constant updates for reporters.

But that often leads to more typos, factual errors and stories with fewer sources, says a story by David Krajicek and Debora Wenger, veteran journalists and members of Criminal Justice Journalists.

Their report was prepared for last week’s  8thannual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America; a shorter version was included on the Poynter Institute website.

The story includes comments from a dozen veteran reporters, including two with Twin Cities ties:

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Hal Davis, public safety team leader, St. Paul Pioneer Press:

We’re trying to get away from spot coverage of every crime. We Tweet the lesser stuff, focus on more impressive crime stories, trends and enterprise and using digital resources….We recognize that we can’t cover the waterfront as well as we used to. The newsroom still produces a full report each day, but perhaps with a smaller story count. Many staffers are frustrated. Some see this as the new normal.

Caroline Lowe, newsroom manager in Santa Barbara, Calif., for KSBY-TV, after 35 years covering crime for WCCO in Minneapolis:

It’s a 24/7 news cycle, so it’s constant. Years ago, it was ‘get it on the 5 and 6 and then repack for the 10.’ Now it’s getting it out on Twitter or Facebook first. The challenge now is balancing the competitive pressure and the need to get information out. I look at the reporting that came out of Newtown, Conn., and I wonder how could so much information be so wrong?…I think some of the plusses are we have amazing tools.

A couple weeks ago we were going to cover a pre-trial hearing and they were allowing cameras in the courtroom. Our photographer was off, so I asked the bailiff if I could use my cellphone…the judge said yes. I use my cellphone as a force multiplier. We don’t have the amount of people we used to have anywhere anymore, so we have fewer people and different resources. Sources are still huge; you have to have people to give you reliable information. The 24/7 cycle is huge, we have fewer people, we have tools, but it gets down to having people who trust you enough to give you information so you can go beyond the press release, go beyond the basic story to get to the ‘why.’

Bottom line from the authors: Most of the veteran reporters they interviewed agreed that “breaking news coverage has grown more stressful and less accurate due to the profound pressures of posting minute-to-minute updates on social media and websites.”