Here at GRNlive we are always looking at how to cover breaking news.
There have been some huge international stories recently and we've asked ourselves some questions to help make sense of what we've seen. For example:
Who are the correspondents who worked smart and earned money?
When is it a good idea to hop on a plane and position yourself in the middle of a breaking news story?
And what do you need to bring?
You should consider the 6 points below before sending yourselves out to cover a breaking news story.
Speed is of the essence: the "money time", to use a basketball term, in most crisis situation is the first 72 hours, which can run up to 10 days, from when a story breaks. It's over this period that broadcasters decide to send over their own crew, or to keep relying on freelancers on the ground.
This decision is influenced on the availability and connectivity of good freelancers but naturally also on the likelihood of a crisis to become prolonged event.
Get there quickly and let us know... read on!
At the risk of stating the obvious - phone lines that work; cellular reception and internet connections are the tools of our trade. If you are at the heart of hearts of a story, but a broadcaster cannot reach you on the phone, you are of very little use. If your objective is to write a book or to file long features for weekend magazines, that's all good and well.
But if you want to provide 2-ways for broadcasters, it is essential that the can get in touch with you.
During the first week of the crisis in Egypt. We had 3 correspondents on the ground and 3 who came in within 2-3 days. For a few valuable days none of them could work because the phone network was brought down. The correspondents who could work were those who made themselves available on landline at times pre-announced to us (and us to clients), and those who came in with satellite phones. Unfortunately, the latter was a minority.
This lesson was certainly learned in the Libyan crisis which followed. More correspondents came in with satellite phones and were more capable of providing two-ways as a result. Even then, some of the satellite phones failed to work in certain areas. What happened was; more hits were done, and more money was been earned, by correspondents who were positioned in Tripoli where they could be available on mobile phones. As well as by a correspondent in Benghazi at the beginning of the crisis who made sure he was by his landline hotel phone at a few pre-announced times in the day, than by correspondent who were at the heart of the battle but could not be reached on their phone.
Sit by the phone in the morning and in the evening - go out by day to reseach the story.
More and more of our clients like using Skype invisions, basically doing a two-way with a correspondent via Skype using a web cam. This works especially well if the correspondent can use the web cam to show a bit of the scenery or even events around them. To indicate that you are in the country where the events are taking place. A few technology-reluctant correspondent feel that Skype and web cams are "messy" and hard to use. The fact is that they are not. We make
a point of paying as much for Skype invision as we'd pay you to go into a studio - in order to encourage you to use the technology.
A Skype invision pays more than twice as much as a phone two-way. The results on the ground prove this concept. During the Miners crisis in Chile in late 2010, a correspondent who stayed in Santiago next to a reliable phone line and computer, doing Skype invisions, made more money and was booked for more hits than all other GRNLive correspondents in Chile. Including those who went north and positioned themselves at the mine. There was no problem with mobile reception at the mine, but none of our correspondents there where equipped to deliver Skype invisions. It became evident that while broadcasters do want reporters close to events, they will, by and large, be willing to compromise on location in order to get better quality of broadcast, or a visual with audio.
Make sure you know how to use Skype, sign up for a free account and connect your webcam.
Need we even say? Unfortunately, many reporters have been injured and killed this year, as every year, while doing their job.
Do not go to a war zone without insurance. Don't go anywhere without insurance. We can help
you get insurance coverage for a given number of days, so let us know of your plans and we'll help you get a good quote.
If you are contemplating going to another country where a big news story is taking place, we may be able to advise you on the likelihood of getting assigned for jobs. Based on the levels of
demand we are getting, on the presence of other reporters on the ground and so on.
We can also provide vital contacts, help you get in touch with organisations which provide satellite phones, insurance and other services, and talk to other correspondents on the ground. Also, if you are going somewhere to cover a story, don't forget to let us know. Otherwise, how could we direct work your way?
Keep us posted - we are always hearing from clients, let us know where you are at