By Diana Pereira
In about a month, I'll celebrate my 15th year in the world of digital journalism—an industry that's constantly evolving. Just last week, I asked my class of master’s students at Ryerson University's school of journalism to attend a lecture with me. Why? Because the title caught my eye.
"Why the death of the homepage is good for digital journalism" was a lecture given by David Skok, former director of digital for Global News and now digital adviser to the editor of the Boston Globe. Read a transcript of the live blog of the event by my student Jeanie Tran here and a transcript of Skok’s speech here.
The title got me thinking about the 24-hour news cycle and how much the process has changed in the past decade. I hadn't noticed the changes as much as I have in the past few years. Back in 1999, globeandmail.com was updated here and there. I was hired as a web producer to add features, such as poll questions, and moderate discussion forums. That's as advanced as it got until the following year when breaking news was launched and the site was updated several times a day. The same sort of thing was happening at 680News.com in 2006 when I started my job there. The site's updates at the time consisted of radio scripts, in all caps, just a few times a day. I made it mandatory to update the site at least once an hour at the time.
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The process from then until now has changed tremendously. Back then, digital writers and editors had zero to do with the distribution of content beyond publishing it to their employer's website.
Now, the first platform we think about is Twitter. Not only are we publishing there first, more and more we are looking for content and sources on Twitter. We ask questions, and then answers from our audience prompt us to explore new stories. Sometimes the answers themselves are the stories. CityNews, for which I also work, has a full segment on The 5 dedicated to comments coming in via Twitter. CBC has a similar segment. In addition to that, we're constantly looking for photos and videos on Twitter to support stories we are already writing.
And it doesn't stop there. On Friday, when a police officer was shot at a Brampton, Ont., courthouse, I started searching Twitter for RIP pages, adding keywords such as "Brampton" and "courthouse." I was attempting to figure out who the shooter was.
Back in 1999, distributing a story meant emailing it to my mother. Now journalists put Twitter first, followed by curated breaking news alert mailing lists and Facebook posts. Your music reporter interviewed Justin Bieber? Now it's up to you to find Bieber fan pages on Twitter and Facebook and post the interview there. The more eyeballs the better!
The homepage, although still important, is not so much dying as being repositioned. Once the story is out there, the homepage has the context—that is, all the layers of the story fit there. With more space than 140 characters, the interviews, photos, comments, context and related content all live on the homepage, and that’s more than you can ever put on Twitter.
Journalists are now also marketers and event managers. I teach journalism at Ryerson part-time and I make live-event management a required component of each course I teach. My students manage online-only panels of people who participate in Q&As. The marketing—making posters, creating hashtags, publishing social media posts promoting the events, writing press releases, cold-calling potential panel members—involves techniques that journalists wouldn’t have thought about using 10 years ago.
The homepage isn't dying. Instead, the process of getting news onto that homepage is changing.
Diana Pereira is the digital news editor for 680News and CityNews and teaches journalism at Ryerson University.
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