Here are a few simple habits you can develop that will help your newsroom respond to breaking news.
Keep your newsroom tidy
Between hectic production nights and collecting ideas from freelancers that never flourished, you may find yourselves stuck with dozens – even hundreds – of assignments in your newsroom that are clogging up your dashboards. Not only does this make it difficult to keep track of the assignments that you’re genuinely working on, but depending on your subscription you may also be seeing some performance issues in Camayak, where you’re tracking your desk – and newsroom’s – editorial budget.
As a rule of thumb, at least once a month editors should be going through and spiking any abandoned assignments. If you have, say, 150+ active assignments, you probably want to do some trimming. Note that you should only spike assignments that have truly been abandoned (more on why, below). You can do that quickly and easily from the Archive page, as long as you’re an editor or admin in Camayak.
You should also check to make sure that people are actually approving assignments out of Camayak, instead of just copy/pasting them and leaving finished articles to stack up. As you probably know, you can approve assignments to publish directly online and then also update them from within Camayak. It’s worth asking whether your colleagues are habitually hitting ‘Update’ on approved assignments and then forgetting to re-approve them to clear their queues.
It’s important to know that Camayak relies heavily on assignment statuses. For instance, Staff Performance and Staff Portfolios will only pay attention to assignments which are “Approved”. So if you have a mountain of assignments that were approved, or should have been, we recommend resisting the temptation to ‘Spike’ them, since they will be removed from all of those analytics dashboards. The better option is to approve them to a destination in Camayak that’s copy/paste, so you don’t overwrite the web versions that you already have (and must presumably be happy with). This will at least populate your analytics.
Create Breaking News assignment templates
Roughly one in every fifteen assignments created by Camayak users is considered ‘breaking news’. While 7% is a small fraction of your total newsroom output, those stories are more likely than any other assignment-types to:
- challenge your verification processes
- test your workflow efficiency
- highlight where your gaps in expertise are
Capitalizing on your preserved institutional knowledge in situations like these is important to get the most out of your coverage. If you have guidelines for your editors and reporters as they work on breaking news items, wrapping them into an assignment template will stop them from being overlooked as your staff’s peripheral vision narrows on the real-time challenges they’re grappling with.
Support inexperienced staff
Whether face-to-face or remotely, backing your staff up as they confront new hurdles in their careers is vital for the vibrancy of your organization. The instant chat feature in Camayak is super useful for one-on-one, private communication with your reporters and you should expect to have to split your time as an editor between content and personnel management, as breaking news unfolds.
Burnout is real. You mightn’t know who your key point-person on a story will be until you’re already in the thick of it, so your coverage may only be as good as the least experienced person in the newsroom. Remember to look after your colleagues and don’t assume that others know what you do. Information-sharing is the current of any time-sensitive reporting so don’t be shy about speaking up, either.