The Drill for Breaking News

The basic spot news story is the mainstay of the Reuters file. Write it quickly, clearly and simply. Say what happened and why we are reporting it, in language that is easy to translate into some of the other languages in which Reuters publishes.

Sourcing should be clear. No reader should be forced to ask how does Reuters really know this?

All stories should include some context to explain the significance of the story. Why does this matter? What are the consequences or what will happen next? Put the news in context so readers can understand its significance, using quotes, color and background.

Remember Reuters core values of accuracy, fairness and speed.

Keep the story to about 400 words.

However, Reuters also uses a series of story formats (Alerts or Snaps, Briefs, 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 NEWSPLANNER ENTRY.

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 somelower case letters in RICs)
  • Sourced (among rare exceptions: routine corporate results, scheduled economic indicator releases).
  • Written in the present tense.
  • 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 function is accessed from the drop-down menu under the “New” button and the alert is created in your personal basket. 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. Leave less significant details to the body of the story.

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 Eikon 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.

An alert or series of alerts are usually "covered: with a Brief or Newsbreak or urgent using the same USN.

Example: JULIUS CAESAR CROSSES RUBICON - PLUTARCH

Briefs and Media Links

The BRIEF saves time and ensures clients with products who cannot receive alerts get our key headlines. Headline tag is BRIEF and there is no slug and no location in the dateline. The Brief repeats the alerts verbatim in bullet point format. 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 at the end. If you are developing the story further, you will need to file an Update, using the Lynx Editor Update function by right clicking on the Brief headline in a basket which will create a new USN. MEDIA links can also be used as a quick way to refer Eikon clients to a story in other media rather than writing a full pick up. The headline tag is: MEDIA and there is no slug and no location in the dateline. The MEDIA link format consists of a bullet point and a URL link to the story in other media. It also carries the rider: "Note: Reuters has not verified this story and does not vouch for its accuracy."

The Newsbreak

A "Newsbreak", or "Urgent", or "Rush" or "Cover", is a short breaking news story that usually follows an Alert. The slug field in Lynx Editor must contain the word URGENT. The Newsbreak should address the basic journalistic questions - who ?, what? where? when ? why ? and so what?.

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

In Lynx Editor, this is achieved after 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 or right click. 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.

Aim to have a Newsbreak filed to an editing desk and published within 10 minutes from the first Alert. Most Newsbreaks should be no more than one or two paragraphs long or less than 100 words. Speed is vital but not at the expense of accuracy.

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 headline and intro as the Newsbreak, adding the new material at the bottom.

On predictable or scheduled events, reporters should prepare by pre-writing newsbreaks and may need to write more than one based on likely scenarios for the outcome.

If a newsbreak is pre-written and pre-edited ahead of a known event it may be the length of an update and cover the alerts in one take. There is no need to break a prewritten story into a separate urgent and update in the case of a prewrite. The point is to meet the speed needs of clients and the newsbreak and update formats are only a means to that end.

The Update

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

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.

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

To create an update use the Lynx Editor by right clicking on the urgent headline in a basket and right clicking. The Update function will automatically create a new Unique Story Number for an Update 1 and use the same USN for subsequent updates and maintain the correct update numbers sequence. (DO NOT USE the Lynx Editor COPY function to create updates as you will then lose track of the update numbers and correct USNs.)

For major breaking news, Update 1s should be no more than about 200 words unless they are based on pre-written material, and they should be published within 20 minutes of the Urgent.

To enable the editing desk to publish the story quickly, reporters should ensure that all the basic journalistic questions are answered. Who? What? When? Where? Why? Sourcing should be clear. No reader should be forced to ask how does Reuters really know this?

Editing 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.

Subsequent Updates

An Update may be refreshed as the story develops, or when fresh reaction comes in. On breaking news, moving an Update 2 quickly by adding another 100 words to an Update 1 is more helpful than waiting for a full write through.

An Update should always have the latest available information and analysis but remember that the latest information is not always the most important. 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 important factual material from earlier stories to ensure there is no loss of content when Updates replace each other, and to enable us to correct any errors in previous copy.

At the end of the day, what will be on the screen are the Alerts (if any), the Urgent (or first story in the series) and the final Update (plus any sidebars, analysis etc).

Most basic news stories, including Updates, sidebars and market reports should be no more than 400 words. The final Update or Wrapup 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, may run to 800 words. Reporters should follow regional guidelines to get approval to exceed the length limits.

OVERNIGHT UPDATES AND SECOND DAY STORIES:

Usually, an Update series would start again after midnight local time or at a convenient point in the next day's news cycle. Look for a natural break in the news flow when you can start a new series, especially on global stories involving more than one timezone. Use the same slug for the new series, but give it a new USN and refer to the previous day's story in the text if necessary.

If a story has developed overnight, the second day story should summarise the latest developments and put them in context, with the most important development in the first paragraph.

If there have been no significant developments overnight, the second day story should try to throw the story forward, predicting the next likely development, while recapturing the main developments of the story for the reader who is coming to the story for the first time.

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.

MOST REUTERS BASIC NEWS STORIES, INCLUDING UPDATES, SIDEBARS AND MARKET REPORTS SHOULD BE NO MORE THAN ABOUT 400 WORDS.

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.
  • Follow the news to a fresh dateline as a global story develops.

To create a wrapup, usually use the Lynx Editor WRAPUP function by right clicking on a story headline in a basket and right clicking. The WRAPUP function will automatically add the word (WRAPUP) in the slugline and the headline tag, create a new USN and maintain the wrapup number sequence. In other words, the Lynx Editor WRAPUP functions works in a similar way to the UPDATE function. Use the WRAPUP button in Lynx Editor to create wrapups, NOT the UPDATE button.

Lynx NewsPlanner Entries

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 for the week's expected stories, especially for regular or known events such as political announcements, economic indicators, corporate earnings etc. Lynx Editor can create a Lynx News Planner entry automatically by clicking on "Create Planning Note" function.

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 a NEWSPLANNER ENTRY.

For now, Reuters also publishes MEDIA SCHEDULES for media clients as follows:

MEDIA SCHEDULE TIMES:

The Business Schedule compiled by the Bangalore desk and 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 Breaking News 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 ahead of time.

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 a 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.
  • Desks can also help by writing the "trunk" or update series, IF reporters file urgents, or at least useable text to the desk in a Lynx Editor file. It is NOT enough for reporters to add comments, quotes or internet links in a chatroom and then expect a trunk writer to work out what is useable copy from material in the chatroom.
  • 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. Lynx Editor will automatically 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.

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