The Drill for Breaking News

Reuters uses a series of story formats (Alerts or Snaps, Newsbreaks/Urgents, Updates and Wrapups) to meet the differing speed needs of its readers which range from intraday traders in banks and funds through to news websites, newspapers and television. As a result we need to abide by line length guidelines to enable reporters and editors to move the copy quickly to meet readers needs.

Major breaking news is handled by writing an ALERT, followed by a NEWSBREAK, followed by an UPDATE and a SKEDLINE.

Contents

The Alert

The Alert (sometimes called a “snap” or “bulletin”) is the highest priority item for Reuters services.

An Alert is:

  • About 100 characters in length as some Thomson Reuters products cannot handle longer alerts.
  • Written entirely in upper case (except for lower case letters in RICs)
  • Sourced (among rare exceptions: routine corporate results, scheduled economic indicator releases).
  • Written in the present tense.
  • Filed at “priority 1”.
  • Normally filed without a dateline, but an abbreviated dateline may be added if the location of the news event is required for clarity and context. The dateline, to be used only in the first of a series of alerts, is separated from the text by a hyphen with a space either side (e.g. NEW YORK - THAI LEADER SAYS...)
  • In Lynx Editor, the Alerting Tool is accessed from the drop-down menu under the “New” button and the alert is created in your personal basket. The header is pre-filled with default codes which can be changed manually. Most RICs generate topic and product or “publish to” codes and a character count is displayed in the status bar at the bottom of the window.

Publish an Alert only when you judge that news may move a market or influence client decisions, or that it will be of significant interest to a global readership. Think of it as a long headline with a source.

The Alert tells the reader the essential facts - only. Some stories may need a series of Alerts but think twice if you are filing more than about five on a single newsbreak.

Clients complain if we flood screens with red all-capitals headlines that make it difficult to see the essential news and merely add detail that belongs in the story itself. Do not cheapen the value of alerts by using them when they are not justified. Clarity is critical, precise sourcing essential. Sources may be omitted only for a regular economic indicator or company result or a scheduled public event. Use simple everyday nouns and active present tense verbs. Avoid slang and jargon. Use known abbreviations.

Example: CAESAR CROSSES RUBICON - PLUTARCH

The Newsbreak

A "newsbreak", or "Urgent", or "Rush" or "Cover", is a short breaking news story that usually follows an Alert and is filed at “Priority 2”. Following the Alert or series of Alerts, the Newsbreak puts the facts into context and makes them meaningful. Stories sent “Priority 2” must have the word URGENT in brackets after the slug in the slug field.

(BRIEFS: A BRIEF saves time and ensures customers who cannot receive alerts get our key headlines. The Brief repeats the alerts verbatim in bullet point format. A brief can have more than five bullet points. Briefs do not carry locations in datelines. Ensure the BRIEF headline carries the key news headline, and include in the BRIEF where possible, a link to the source document through either a USN or URL link. List the link as a separate bullet added to the end. However a BRIEF does not meet the needs of Eikon Top News pages, reuters.com or media clients, so on top company earnings you need to file an Urgent after the BRIEF on a new USN. If you are developing the story further, you will need to file an Update as usual. )

If there is no BRIEF, Newsbreaks must use the same Unique Story Number as the Alert or Alerts.

In Lynx Editor, this is achieved by filing the alert by choosing the “publish and Newsbreak” option from the “Publish” menu. Alternatively, select the alert in a Lynx Editor Publish basket and click on “Add Chained” at the top. This creates a dialog box that will allow you to add further alerts or a Newsbreak, all with the same USN.

The Alert and the Newsbreak remain on the screen and they are not replaced with later updates.

Speed is vital but not at the expense of accuracy. Aim to follow up the Alert by having a Newsbreak filed to an editing desk and published within 15 minutes from the first Alert.

Most Newsbreaks should be no more than about 100 words or TWO or THREE paragraphs. Newsbreaks that include pre-written material may run longer, provided this does not compromise the "snap gap" or the time between the alerts and the Newsbreak.

Expect the editing desk to chase you if the Alert is not "covered" within about 15 minutes as websites and newspapers often do not get the alerts and need a Newsbreak as the start of the story.

If a story is unlikely to move a market and so require an Alert but still requires a quick start, coverage may start with a Newsbreak or short spot story.

If, after writing the Newsbreak, you have material you think needs to be reported further, write a short UPDATE 1. You can use the same top and same headline as the Newsbreak, adding the new material at the bottom. There is no need for a Newsbreak to repeat slavishly every detail in a sequence of Alerts if the essential news is adequately covered.

Newsbreak content

A Newsbreak should contain the following elements:

  • The main facts (who? what? when? where?), the source and the circumstances (e.g. the IBM chairman at a news conference) and the time element (e.g. on Monday)
  • Answer the “So what?” question, i.e. the newsbreak should put the news in its context. It must start telling the story by signalling significance, or giving comparisons, and include market reaction if this is immediately available.
  • An authoritative quote is desirable. But don’t hold up the Newsbreak if you don’t have a quote.

On a predictable/scheduled event, reporters should prepare by pre-writing background for inclusion in the Newsbreak and by canvassing sources on the likely outcomes.

Example:

COLD-CURE/ZX (URGENT) ZX says cold cure trials show promise

LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) – ZX Plc chairman Vulcan Sunburster said on Monday that clinical trials had been promising in the British-based pharmaceutical company’s quest for a remedy for the Zeta strain of common cold.

"We are prudent about a drug just yet for the Zeta strain of cold virus but phase two clinical trials show real promise with Red Toadflax. It looks good,” Sunburster said in a statement after the release of the company’s half-year results.

The Update

An Update is a story aimed at carrying forward an earlier report by weaving together fresh developments, reaction, added context and interpretation, analysis and background.

The word UPDATE is used as a tag in the headline and appears in the slug field in brackets. The first Update in the series would be UPDATE 1, the next UPDATE 2 etc.

The Update is sometimes called a “lead” or "trunk" in newsroom jargon (“Lead” or “lede” can also be a synonym for an intro – the opening paragraph of a news story). Use a new Unique Story Number for the Update and retain it throughout the Update series.

UPDATE 1s to Newsbreaks should be no more than about 300 words or THREE or FOUR paragraphs, unless they are based on pre-written material. They should be filed to clients within about 30 minutes of the Newsbreak.

Example:

BC-COLD-CURE/ZX-SHARES (UPDATE 1) UPDATE 1-ZX shares soar on cold cure hope (Writes through adding analysis, quotes) By Penny Wort

LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Shares in British drugs firm ZX Plc soared 25 percent on Monday after it said that new clinical trials buoyed hopes it may find a cure for the Zeta strain of common cold using a rare herb called Red Toadflax.

The shares hit 10.50 pounds despite only a modest increase in interim profits on the possibility of a drug for the Zeta cold bug that hit the world at the dawn of a new millennium with a pandemic of debilitating coughs and sneezes.

“We are prudent about a drug just yet for the Zeta strain of cold virus but phase two clinical tests show real promise with Red Toadflax. It looks good,” ZX Chairman Vulcan Sunburster said in a statement after the release of half-year results.

ZX first half pre-tax profits to June 30 at 302 million pounds ($455 million) were virtually unchanged from 293 million in the same period of last year. Sales were up 12 percent at 1.27 billion pounds and the interim dividend was steady at two pence.

Just 18 months ago ZX spent $300 million buying Dutch company GrasGroen NV which had begun work on Red Toadflax, an old folk remedy, to treat the Zeta strain of cold.

Subsequent Updates

An UPDATE may be refreshed as the story develops, or when fresh reaction comes in e.g. THAILAND-KING/ (UPDATE 2), THAILAND-KING/ (UPDATE 3) etc.

UPDATE X- is also used as the headline tag (e.g. UPDATE 4-Thai monarch orders …).

There should be an ADVISORY LINE under the headline telling readers what has been updated (e.g. “Adds king’s quotes in third paragraph”).

An UPDATE should always have the latest available information and analysis but remember that the latest information is not always the most important. You may twin it with the key point from the earlier update or leave the intro unchanged and incorporate the fresh information lower down. You do not need to change the wording of the intro if it is still the strongest news point and is not outdated.

Fresh UPDATES should retain most of the factual material in earlier stories to ensure there is no loss of content when updates replace earlier stories and to enable us to correct any errors in previous copy.

Make sure the UPDATE that follows the Newsbreak has a different Unique Story Number (USN) from the Newsbreak. The UPDATE should not replace the Newsbreak. However, subsequent UPDATES will replace previous Updates in the series. At the end of the day, what will be on the screen are the Alerts (if any), the Newsbreak (or first story in the series) and the final UPDATE (plus and sidebars, analysis etc).

OVERNIGHT UPDATES:

Usually, an UPDATE series would start again at midnight local time or at a convenient point in the day's news cycle with a spot story, followed by an UPDATE 1.

Use common sense. If there’s a plane crash at 11:15pm or 2315 local time and you have got an UPDATE 1 out at 11:45 pm/2345 local time, it might be confusing to readers in other time zones to revert to a new series at 12.10am/0015 local time. As a result subsequent updates in this case will change the date to reflect the new local day. Then look for a natural break in the news flow when you can start a second day story series again.

However, updates well into the next day's news cycle can confuse media clients and cause problems in some downstream distribution systems due to next day time stamps. It's best to start a second day story, at least in terms of the format as soon as possible early the next day. Use the same slug for the next day trunk story but a new USN and reference the previous day's story in the text if necessary.

UPDATE LENGTH: Reuters uses a series of story formats (Alerts or Snaps, Newsbreaks/Urgents, Updates and Wrapups) to meet the differing speed needs of its readers which range from intraday traders in banks and funds through to news websites, newspapers and television. As a result we need to abide by line length guidelines for each story format to enable reporters and editors to move the copy quickly to meet readers needs.

Short, quick updates help meet the readers needs. Adding another 100 words or 10 lines to an update1 for an update2 and moving it quickly is more helpful on breaking news than waiting for a full write through. Desks should try to fix and move problematic early updates quickly by shortening the story and asking the reporter for a better version for the next update.

MOST REUTERS BASIC NEWS STORIES, INCLUDING UPDATES, SIDEBARS AND MARKET REPORTS SHOULD BE NO MORE THAN ABOUT 400 WORDS OR 40 LINES IN LYNX EDITOR.

The final update or wrap up on a top breaking news story that is likely to appear on a top news webpage or media wire news schedule, or a significant exclusive, or especially well-argued analysis tagged INSIGHT may run to 800 words or 80 about lines in Lynx Editor, but reporters should check with the editor, bureau chief or regional desk.

The Wrapup

A WRAPUP is a one-stop shop for clients offering a broad snapshot of the latest developments in a top story of the day. In news agency jargon it is often called the "trunk story" or "leadall". It is a synthesis of significant news developments with the necessary context, colour, background and reaction, not a long list of everything that was said and done. The WRAPUP tag in the headline and after the slug flags these stories to clients.

A Wrapup should:

  • Pull together news from more than one dateline or from separately reported strands of a big story from the same dateline. It is not just the last Update in a series. It is meant to pull together more than one series of updates on the same broad subject.
  • Carry the dateline/by-line of the writer with the strongest story.
  • Lead on the hardest news and weave in significant developments from other datelines/stories.
  • Be no more than about 800 words or about 80 lines in Lynx Editor.
  • Follow the news to a fresh dateline as a global story develops.
  • Be refined and improved to sharpen the headline and top five paragraphs.
  • Bring in essential background, analysis, color and context and cut out any material that is no longer required each time it is freshened.

Use the word (WRAPUP) in the slugline and the headline tag WRAPUP. Wrapups follow the same slugging and tag style as UPDATEs, – i.e. they start with WRAPUP 1, then WRAPUP 2, WRAPUP 3. But don't use the Update button in Lynx Editor to create new updates as that will add the Update tag automatically. Use the Copy With Same USN button and manually change the wrapup number.

Lynx NewsPlanner and Skedlines for Media Schedules

ALL bureau chiefs and reporting team EICs are responsible for ensuring their reporting team updates their relevant Lynx Newsplanner calendar once a day for the next day or week's expected stories, especially for regular or known events such as political announcements, economic indicators, corporate earnings etc.

NewsPlanner entries should have the "description field" filled out with the sort of information used by production desks to compile schedules of planned coverage for media clients. Ideally, this means a NewsPlanner entry should contain an expected story headline, and a sentence or two explaining what the story will be about and the significance of the story, as well as the likely slug, reporter, time of filing, and estimated word count.

In addition to updating the bureau or team calendar, stories that are likely to be posted to the Top News pages should be also entered in the regional TOP NEWS CALENDAR as well as the GLOBAL SCHEDULES calendar, by clicking the relevant calendar boxes in News Planner.

Entering your expected story details in the GLOBAL SCHEDULES calendar, in addition to your relevant bureau or reporting team and regional top news calendar, will mean your story will also be included in media schedules for media clients.

In the case of major BREAKING NEWS, that is NOT noted in NewsPlanner, the NEXT STEP IN THE BREAKING NEWS DRILL, after an alert/snap or urgent/newsbreak and update1, is to write and file a SKEDLINE to the GLOBAL-SCHEDULES basket in Lynx Editor, to advise the desk and media clients of our coverage plans on top stories. (New Story file > Write skedline > Transfer > Choose a Basket > GLOBAL-SCHEDULES )

The main text desks compile and file schedules for media clients several times a day alerting them to our coverage plans and upcoming stories. Media clients are keen to know what stories we are likely to publish each day.

To file a skedline, open a New Story file in Lynx Editor and write a skedline in a style similar to the expected lead of the story. The skedline should contain an expected headline, likely first sentence on WHAT the story is about and a line on the SIGNIFICANCE of the story. In other words it should combine elements of a lede or first paragraph and a "nut graph" of context of a regular story.

Follow this format for skedlines:

HEADLINE:

DATELINE:

LEAD: Main elements of story with context on its significance.

SLUG/ (UPDATE X, PIX, VIDEO, GRAPHIC);

Moved or estimated expect by time in GMT for most skeds, but in ET and GMT for skeds produced in AMERS region;

Byline:

Estimated number of words

Example:

EU warns of world economy damage if summit fails

BRUSSELS - The global economy will suffer if euro zone leaders fail to produce a convincing solution to Greece's debt crisis at their summit in Brussels, the European Commission's president warns as wrangling on a complex package continues. ( EUROZONE/ (WRAPUP 1, TV, PIX, GRAPHICS) ), expect by 1300 GMT, by Luke Baker and Philipp Halstrick, 800 words)

Points to note: Don’t forget the headline There is no date, just a location in dateline Write in present tense if possible No days of the week or RICs The expected time comes before your byline and “by” is not capitalized Use GMT and add local time for AMERS skeds. Use the 24 hour clock with no colon e.g. 1430 not 2.30pm, except for AMERS schedules where the local time is added in addition to GMT e.g. 1430 GMT/ 10.30am EST

If you expect story to move about the time of sked, either say ‘moving shortly’ instead of 'expect by' or sked for 30 minutes after the schedule itself is due.

TRANSFER YOUR SKEDLINE to the GLOBAL-SCHEDULES basket in Lynx Editor.

Skedlines should be sent to the desk at least 30 minutes before the schedule is published.

For help with when and how to file skedlines, send a Lynx Editor screentop message to your regional editing desk, e.g. EMEA-EDITORS, AMERS-EDITORS, ASIA-EDITORS.

MEDIA SCHEDULE TIMES:

The Business Schedule compiled by desks in London, New York and Singapore is published at:

GMT 0230, 0630, 0830, 1230, 1430 (10.30 am EDT) and 1830 (2.30pm EDT) in the European summer and when U.S. Daylight Savings Time is in effect (late spring, summer and early fall in northern hemisphere)

and at

GMT 0230, 0630, 0930, 1330, 1530 (10.30 am EST) and 1930 (2.30pm EST) in the European winter and during U.S. Standard Time (late fall, winter and early spring in the northern hemisphere)

The World News (Political and General News) Schedule runs at:

GMT 0200, 0600, 1000, 1400, 1800 (2pm EDT) and 2200 (6pm EDT) northern hemisphere summer time

and at

GMT 0200, 0600, 1100, 1500, 1900 (2pm EST) and 2300 (6pm EST) northern hemisphere winter time

Watch out for the weeks in March/April and Oct/Nov when many clocks around the world change. You can check on http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/

Other schedules published include the Sports Schedule, the Entertainment Schedule etc.

The drill - making it work

The Alert/Newsbreak/Update drill for major stories is designed to help us get information out quickly on breaking news. With scheduled events such as earnings releases, economic indicators, speeches and news conferences, we can also prepare. Here are some tips:

  • Pre-write as much background and context as possible. The task then is just to write a lead, add data and perhaps slot in a key quote.
  • Double-staff key events or have two people monitoring a major televised speech. They can hand off to each other on writing sets of Alerts that they cover with Newsbreaks and then fold into an Update.
  • Desks can often help fix UPDATES by cutting them if they are overwritten in order to move update1s and update2s quickly, leaving reporters to get on with a more polished writethrough.
  • Do not allow separate update series to proliferate. Most stories do not require more than a single trunk story, updated as needed. Do not do an UPDATE 1 to each Newsbreak unless they are totally different stories.
  • Remember to consult the desk and to keep editors abreast of your plans for UPDATES by sending skedlines (see section above).
  • WORK FROM EDITED AND PUBLISHED COPY when updating, otherwise the desk will have to re-edit your story, slowing down the publishing process. Find a copy of your earlier update in a Publish basket in Lynx Editor or by doing a search in Lynx Editor.
  • Remember to add "trashlines" or advisory lines to updates noting what you have added or changed in each update. BOLD FACE your text changes in subsequent updates to help the editing desk to edit and publish updates more quickly. (Desks please remember to remove the boldface before publishing.)
  • Do not "file and flee". Leave a contact phone number in the comment section of the header field or at the start of the body text of the story so the desk can reach your with any queries.

This page was last modified 16:22, 11 November 2014.

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