09. Covering an event live

Is there a specific art to online reporting? Multimedia journalists are reporters like any other, but they also need a certain sense of directness and conversation, which are essential ingredients for good “coverage” of an event.

Using live images

The internet is a media of flows and archives, it provides the possibility of publishing an article that can develop over time. From the first 140-character Tweet announcing the start of a demonstration to the lengthy analysis dissecting its success (or failure), the internet uses all formats. Its responsiveness and flexibility make it an ideal form of media for covering events live.

So, an online reporter can cover an event as it unfolds, using no more equipment than a multi-function smartphone. Using this type of phone, you can film the head of the procession, interview the leaders of the demonstration, take photos of them, etc. All this is dependent on you being able to transmit your information (text and images) and, therefore, having access to the (telephone) network and sufficient bandwidth. This requires making short video clips (no more than one minute in length), or a series of photos that are easy to send. Mobile phone networks are often completely saturated in the area around a demonstration because of the very large number of simultaneous communications within a limited area.

Finally, take care not to slip up! The main risk of such coverage is rushing and sending what you believe to be news based on a quick impression or a “thing seen”. The more that the length of time between the event and its coverage decreases, the more the risk of errors increases.

Twitter Live

Providing live coverage of an event through a series of messages with a maximum of 140 characters requires both a keen ability to summarise and an unparalleled talent as a storyteller. This exercise is similar to writing the “Urgents” of news agency wires: no frills, no formulaic style and no word play. It is necessary to stick to the facts and nothing but the facts, respecting a traditional structure. The saying coined by Pierre Lazareff (a legendary French media mogul who never experienced the internet) seems perfectly suited to Twitter:

 “A sentence is a subject, a verb and a complement. For an adjective, warn me. The first time you use an adverb, you’re fired!” 

While Twitter invites you to give your personal opinions, you should be wary of this direct and unfiltered mode of expression. In particular, refrain from using irony, which could cause confusion. Irony is always a double-edged sword and its interpretation is ambiguous. Concealed behind a well-meaning phrase, there is often a complex imaginary background that readers may not understand or may interpret in a completely different way to that intended by the author.