The Drill for Breaking News

Reuters 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 SKEDLINE.


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. 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. 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.


The Brief

A BRIEF saves time and ensures clients with products who cannot receive alerts get our key headlines. The Brief repeats the alerts verbatim in bullet point format. Briefs do not carry slugs and do not carry locations in datelines. 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. 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.

The Newsbreak

A "Newsbreak", or "Urgent", or "Rush" or "Cover", is a short breaking news story that usually follows an Alert but may be the first break of a story without Alerts. Tthe Newsbreak puts the facts into context and makes them meaningful. The slug field in Lynx Editor must contain the word URGENT.

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 15 minutes from the first Alert. Most Newsbreaks should be one or two paragraphs long, unless they are prewritten and pre-edited. 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 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 do not hold up the Newsbreak if you do not 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.

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?

All stories should have a nut graph that explains the impact or significance of the news as soon as possible, but we should not delay an Update 1 on a big breaking story if the significance or impact is not immediately obvious.

Subsequent Updates

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. 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.

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.


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.

Short, quick updates help meet the readers needs. Adding another 100 words 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.


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, 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.
  • Follow the news to a fresh dateline as a global story develops.
  • Bring in essential background, analysis, color and context and cut out any material that is no longer required each time it is freshened.

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 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 for the 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 ). Lynx Editor can also create a Lynx News Planner entry automatically by clicking on "Create Planning Note" function.

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:



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


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


Estimated number of words


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.


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.


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

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. 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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