Real-time reporting: The philosophy behind it.





Real-time reporting:

The philosophy behind IT


As more and more stories are told in real time, real-time reporting turns into a key skill for journalists. But why is that so and what does real-time reporting offer for the future of digital journalism? Here are some brief answers for those who are interested in these questions, too ...




Marie Elisabeth Müller,

Annegrete Skovbjerg,

Kristian Strǿbech,


During #IDEEPOLIS15 thirty-two j-students courageously reported in real time and turned it into a life-time experience:

Lena Appel, Claudia Articek, Jacqueline Bader, Valerie Beck, Lena Biberacher, Sven Braun, Julian Budjan, Lisa Ernst, Jana Anastasia Fehler, Sissy Genth, Silvana Hengler, Isabelle Hirsch, Isabell Hogh-Janovsky, Tobias Jansen, Meike Maurer, Marius Nestmeier Lara Peterke, Lena-Mara Fanta Pfaffl, Pia Marie Piech, Alexander Pillo, Elena Riedlinger, Fabian Rohr, Carina Roos, Kim Lucia Ruoff, Marcia Scharf, Stephanie Schlagenhauf, Diana Scholl, Corinne Schwager, Jessica Türk, Tanja Weber, Julia Weise, Silas Zbornik.




           content                                                                                pages


I.       On a personal note                                                                                       3

II.        The philosophy behind it:
Relating instant digital communication to real-time journalism                              4-13

III.     The reporter on scene:
What real-time reporting offers to digital journalism                                            14-16
Wrapping up                                                                                                    17-18

IV.   Sources                                                                                                         19

V.    Short bios of the authors                                                                                 20


I. On a personal note

In January 2015 I asked my colleagues Annegrete Skovbjerg and Kristian Strǿbech at the Danish School for Media and Journalism in Aarhus whether they could make it to Stuttgart for a workshop on real-time reporting. Annegrete and Kristian instantly accepted the invitation. What we couldn't foresee then was that our collaboration would become increasingly sustainable, which became obvious soon after. Simply because we became aware that we shared the same open and curious minds to start the mutual journey into one of the most exciting and complex fields of contemporary content production. Both of them have been working together in that field for many years and they are considered among few international experts in the area of real-time reporting and social media management. An area which is still both a new field of avantgarde journalistic practice and a field under suspicion by a majority of journalists and scholars who link live-journalism to low quality standards.

Our first workshop took place during two days in early June 2015 at the HdM and aimed on real-time coverage of the conference #Ideepolis15. The academic conference had been organised by the HdM Institute of Digital Ethics (IDE) and the Institute of Applied Narration (IANA) on the topic of "Narrating the internet/The Internet narrating." Thirty-two second-term students from my department of Crossmedia-Journalism/Public Relations took up the challenge to report in teams of about five students, all working together under time pressure and only using their own smartphones. Low-end equipment is perfect as a starting point, when everybody has to deal with tech and content at the same time anyway. And we didn't want the students to become absorbed by the technology.

For the research, reporting, production, and documentation we used iPhone and Android apps, a few design apps like Canva as well as streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat. The research was done via Twitter, online sources, and interviews with speakers and scholars involved in the conference. We hosted the streams mainly on Twitter, partly on Facebook and Youtube; the latter two were also useful for beforehand reporting and documentation. Tweet Deck and Hootsuite were used for monitoring. The documentation was done with Storify.

After having overcome the natural first reluctance, the results were by all standards spectacular and an eye-opener for everybody involved in the reporting. Student journos as well as we trainers gained further insights into the way smart devices can be professionally used for quality reporting. It clearly demands a whole set of new skills and workflows that have to be linked carefully to proven quality standards of journalistic ethics and verified context.

In this paper we take you, our readers, on a short philosophical trip into the real-time content factory and wrap up only very briefly on the journalistic specifics of real-time reporting. We will later publish a more detailed paper on the workflow and the concept developed for frame real-time reporting as an avantgarde technique and asset for the future of digital journalism.

A good read!

Marie Elisabeth Müller


"Do you think me a learned, well-read man?"

"Certainly," replied Zi-gong. "Aren't you?"

"Not at all." said Confucius. "I have simply grasped one thread which links up the rest.

Sima Qian, Confucius


II. The philosophy behind it:
Relating instant digital communication to real-time journalism

As all of us experience the end of mass media as the end of the concept of mass communication and enter the era of mass self-communication[2], even if at different speeds and degrees of willingness, individuals and collectives on a global scale have to develop new styles and techniques to organise their flows of data and knowledge as well as their multiple identities in the digital communication sphere.

We, the three trainers and authors of this paper, invite you to visualise the digital communication sphere metaphorically as an evolving and huge empty bubble, a second earth. Each of us will have to transfer virtually to it, coming from the analogue bubble, and settle into her or his genuine style, with her or his unique skills and knowledge, and at her or his individual speed.


Media evolution is based on innovative time-concepts

This transformation process is the next level in the evolutionary media process that has been going on since human beings started to communicate by means of the "semiotic universe." Media evolution fundamentally happened according to two synchronised dynamics: first, the speed-up of communication flows, and second, the deterritorialisation of space in order to overcome borders and physical limits.

The entire dynamic has been described by biologists and futurists as "Kleiber's 10/10 law" according to which greater and more diverse environments like coral reefs and urban cities are ten times more innovative and faster in the way they implement innovation than smaller and less diverse environments. Innovation evolved in an evolutionary way up to the extent that today we face a 1/1 dynamic in innovation processes. A prominent example is the video-sharing platform Youtube, which was developed within one year and took only sixteen months to reach 30 million video-streamings per day.

Consequently, real-time communication has now turned (biologically speaking "mutated") into the most common communication experience of the Millennium and of Millennials, possibly limited by four factors: resources restricted by bandwidth and/or access to WIFI, censorship, reluctant mind-sets, or illiteracy.


Digital communication happens on a disrupted time-line

Digital communication basically can happen instantly all the time and it does predominantly happen instantly, simply because digital devices function by definition directly, interactively, instantly. We may think of the endless global network of digital nodes as engines transforming and driving the powerful real time content factory. The core work of this factory is aimed at pulling and focusing the attention of producers and users to the moment, in German to the "Nu". Both the challenge and the beauty in real time content lay in the two-fold art of, first, grabbing attention instantly and, second, opening the door to interactive communication in a playful way.

Low-key techniques for hands-on production and high-key concepts nurturing the playground of real-time content are both in place. At first sight this phenomenon may sounds like a contradiction, however, the concept of a linear timeline is as much a construction as was the mass media concept. From today's view they even look like twin-aspects of the same concept, which has dominated the Western cultural mind-set for a long time.

Looking at the way digital content works, we'll notice that we deal with an universe of parallel actions and sovereign distinct actions jumping the chronological timeline freely and opening up to an infinite non-linear playground. This playground leaves behind, even destroys, the traditional concept of the strictly successive linear timeline and bids farewell to the dominance of the pattern of linearity and chronology. However, the timeline remains for now a powerful tool to visualise human experience and events and is as such widely used also in social and digital.

But as is often said, new things are labeled with old notions that disguise the revolutionary concept within them in order to comfort people who are reluctant about change and risk. Furthermore, it is true that every new material has been transformed from older material and carries in itself a virtual interface blending many times. Hence, there is obviously some significance in the labels. For example, printing was labeled as automated handwriting, cars were horseless carriages and, last not least, mobile devices are still called (smart)phones. Independently of their label, time and content are digitally organised through new and much more open principles bound to the instant. Real-time content can be seen as digital content that floats along a liquid timeline from whence the story unfolds in a non-linear and disruptive style, adding up instant incidents, which are framed as "snippets" and genuinely connected by the interactively involved users.


Invisible sightlines are replaced by constructions of meaning

For readers familiar with Walter Benjamin's work, written in the years prior to World War II, the network of nodes and the real-time content factory evokes Benjamin's description of Paul Klee's "Angelus novus"; adding to the aspect of new inventions labeled with old notions. It seems as if Benjamin had been able to anticipate the digital dynamic by analyzing and describing the analogue systematics.

In his philosophical approach, history is blown by the "storm of time" into an unknown future separating the angelus novus and the angel's view from paradise and, as Benjamin tells this story, forcefully drives her ahead into the unknown. While pushed forward in fast speed, the angel looks back in order to get to see what she leaves behind. It is no surprise then that we, the audience, don't see what she spots by looking back. However, Benjamin tells us that she gets a glimpse of infinite, crashed elements piling up in a chaotic non-linear field of ruins.

Typically for portrait art and representation of humans - and most prominently described by Michel Foucault in the opening passage of "Les mots et les choses" (1966), where he uses the example of Velázques' Las Meninas (1656) - large parts of the story and the sightlines are kept invisible for both the observer in the picture and the viewer who looks at it from the outside. Consequently, the construction of a completed picture and story can only be imagined by the observer and the user. This paradoxical logic is inherent in the semiotics of communication and we'd find it in any portrait and story throughout history. It's crucial for the understanding of the DNA of all communication and makes it handy and less abstract. A significant part of the semiotic content is bound to the invisible, which - at the time of the birth of photography as a mass medium - Freud defined as the "unconscious". This mechanism has been brought to perfection in the digital playground where at present we as journalists and content producers deal with instant liquid formats which have overcome chronological linear formats.


Disruptive liquid stories emerge

Digital real-time stories enfold in a disruptive and liquid way, insofar as they can be edited, can be interactively annotated, and can be instantly continued, literally at any time and at any place. The storyline jumps within a present time cosmos to parallel actions and from the present time cosmos to the past and to the future, adding content of parallel, prior, and/or later incidents and knowledge to the story point inherently directed by the real time engine of the present.

The contemporary comic strip "The Narcissus Story" gives an example consisting of four colourful images: Source: - 19.9.2011.


The four images are technically built like an analogue film strip with bars in between. All images display the same ensemble of elements, which are subtly regrouped - as if in motion - as the story unfolds. There is a lightly clothed young man, dressed in a sleeveless dress, recalling ancient Greek style, carrying a blue smartphone in his left hand. In the background we see two brown trees with deep green leaves next to a lighter green bush (only in three of the four pictures), a bluish sky, a greenish lawn, and a turquoise lake. Brief lines of text on top of each image give teaser-descriptions of what is happening and construct a successive linear storyline (then and then and ...) in writing.

So, the story enfolds in snippets as such: A "very handsome boy" appears on scene in front of a lake (1). Then he takes a selfie with his deep blue smartphone (2). Then he stares at the smartphone display - presumably at the selfie invisible to us - and tries to upload the image to Facebook (3), this information is given in the textline. Then, in the last and fourth picture the lake occupies almost one third of the total frame and a thin arm sticks out of the lake holding up a blue smartphone (4).


Preconceptualized mental schemata fill the gaps in liquid stories

The large majority of literate Western readers have received at least primary education and/or are used to utilising mass media. Members of this macro-group share a general understanding of stories and a pool of content patterns, be they consciously or unconsciously learned and applied. Because of their preconceptualized mental schemata they instantly understand this comic strip as a contemporary adaptation of the ancient myth of Narcissus. Though it is clearly compressed and adds new aspects to the plot.

We are not going to elaborate on this example for too long, instead we would like to summarise and highlight four aspects relevant for the understanding of real-time content:

First, we can see that just a few elements activate a complex story and story context on the basis of the preconceptualized mind-sets of users. Secondly, this story can be seen as a paradigm for the place of the observer, who tells and views the story from an invisible place, which is connected to the present. For several reasons resulting from the basic structure of human semiotic representation, the perspectives of the main protagonist and the observer/user hardly ever cross or view the same content. Instead they are bound through what is kept "invisible" and opens up space for imagination and constructiveness. Thirdly, the story takes a strong contemporary twist claiming that digital images and data last beyond death. Alluding to a feature that generally marks media technology in its approach of constructing, reproducing, and simulating what we used to call reality. Fourthly, the story alludes to the complex field of selfie-images and selfie-stories harboured in the Western cultural discourse in which Narcissus is associated with such an extraordinary selfishness that he must be punished, even by death.


Why does Narcissus' behaviour pose a threat?

All four aspects touch significant dimensions of the real-time content factory driven by the digital semiotic engine and are worth investigation. In our context we will briefly dig deeper only into the aspect of the selfie-story to gain a more profound understanding. Death as the strongest possible punishment for taking a selfie comes as a surprise and seems a bit overboard to say the least. Why should somebody who is keen on her or his selfie-image be threatened by a death penalty and actually be executed?

In Ovid's Metamorphoses Narcissus acts under a spell, while in our comic strip the handsome young boy acts under the impact of his digital device connected to Facebook. In both ways the main protagonist loses control but does not act fully deliberately. This feature of the loss of control is supposed to soften the committed crime and throws a smokescreen over the real crime scene which lays in the empty heart of representation itself, forcing human beings to make use of semiotic mirrors to communicate.

Following this scheme we'd like to focus in our response on two key messages sent by the Narcissus story. One message puts the importance of network society and social community into place and insists that emotional bounds and representational purposes have to comply with others and with the society. The other message is more subtle and sheds light on the deadly danger that society sees in the place of self-representation. In this perspective, a person in love with her or his own image, a person reflecting herself or himself in a selfie is not only breaking the invisible contract between individual and social group, but is also revealing the empty heart of representation itself. That revelation contains a great danger to the binding power of law and order, which is constructed within the representational logic.

To establish communication and meaning human beings have to use signs and semiotics, which are by their very nature completely arbitrary and different from what they represent. The semiotic engine and dynamic will stop and fall into place only in the instant of death. In consequence semiotic representation can be read as an open system, which however is arguable because it could always be defined differently and locked down. Nevertheless, social groups and society depend on the binding power of representation. That is why seemingly the selfie-habits of all such as Narcissus present a danger to society by putting themselves first and by disrespecting the social glue of representational conventions.


Selfie-stories develop into credible sources

Following up on the real-time content, the place of Narcissus is taken by the first-person storyteller who equals the first-person reporter. Both gain great impact in the digital sphere and particularly in real-time reporting. They turn out to be the "glue" which instantly and temporarily connects the disruptive content. It is this "glue" which constructs the story in the first place, brings across context and background, adds crucial credibility to it. While we are dealing with micro-elements of stories - be they multimodal or monomodal (though, the latter hardly ever applies these days) - the first-person storyteller and reporter gains an irreplaceable position and turns out to be a necessary part of the content as a guide and connector - present in sound or in images or in both at the same time.

This development obviously brings tremendous changes for storytelling and the concept of subjectivity versus objectivity. Both are falling apart more obviously and at a higher speed in the digital sphere than happened in times of analogue technology. Users share context among human beings - or, in the age of AI, what they assume to be such - and they want to know more about the person who shares content and stories from the view of a storyteller, a guide on scene, or many other possible names for the same position. As far as digital appearance might take digital users in simulating a so-to-speak "second life sphere," at the same time the reassurance about who is speaking becomes crucial for connecting with audiences and securing credibility for any shared content. It is not aiming at proving truth but to know the face of the person who takes responsibility and can interactively be approached, too.


Micro-storytelling in social and digital

Stories that are instantly shared on digital and social media are often told in only one image or in a few snippets. The American screenwriting trainer John Truby developed a new and more compartmentalised concept of the art of telling long and coherent stories. The micro-sequences go beyond both the ancient storytelling concepts and the adapted modern concept of the "Hero's journey." Although Truby aims at rethinking storytelling for the film industry by developing a concept of 22 core steps of storytelling, his concept proves to be very useful for the micro-storytelling formats in social and digital media as well. It offers a way to frame and define the preconception of any story and subsequently cut out single elements and work with them in digital and social media.

As an example we look at Obama's early morning tweet shortly after his second presidential victory, which serves as a world famous example of micro-storytelling in one image cut out of the "Hero's journey" at a defined point.

Source: Twitter @BarackObama 7.11.2012, 5:16 am.

The image displays Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in a warm hug. We don't see Michelle's face or look, we just spot Barack's face with his eyes closed and a soft smile. Apart from the usually displayed Twitter meta-data there is a brief text adding context information, but kept to three words and perfect punctuation: "Four more years." The image of the couple breathes peace and silence, obviously an instant of triumph, pleasure and time to breathe. The background and surroundings are designed as if the couple were touching the sky; it is intuitively associated with "Olympus," the ancient Greek mountain of the gods. Though again, as usual in the digital content factory, most of the information and particularly the concrete place is invisible to us and leaves room for imagination and connection interactively driven by the user.

When talking to students about this tweet, they all picture the fully complex, yet invisible story behind it, and define the story point as taking place shortly after the story climax happened. That lets us assume the two protagonists rest at the finish line, which at the same time turns into a starting point for new adventures to come. The image contains and blends micro-elements of the past, present, and future as is expected on the digital playground.

The play on and with the timeline also establishes the need for a strong guide and storyteller position, somebody in the driver's seat to pull all the strings together and guide users quickly and persuasively through a meaningful and relevant content-story. Hence, in that regard it is logical that we don't see Michelle's face or perspective, if any. However, it is absolutely necessary that we see the face of the leader, Barack's face, as he is the storyteller who guides us through his victorious story framed by the legal fabric of the democratic empire. While in former times the face of the king or the queen was kept invisible in order to represent his or her de facto powerless position as a blank space, we see Barack's face and upper body. Yet his closed eyes tell that his view is turned inside and we may take it for a signal that his power is transferred to him from the outer world, from the people and communities.

The image also pulls our interest to the merging process of how the private and professional spheres blend into each other. Either way, the image of what appears at first sight to be a private moment seems to expose the core of credibility and guided interest. In social media we find it in a person who shares his or her instance-bound status and opens up to interactive communication.


Disruptive stories have much in common with crime scenes

Walter Benjamin describes each photographic - frozen - scene as a crime scene. That recalls the story of Narcissus who commits the crime of pointing to the empty heart of representation and the need of communicating by using a mirror. The semiotic engine produces content and images that construct identity and reality. In this sense, content elements always create a crime scene that needs to be analyzed and investigated. Therefore the criminalist and the reporter have a lot in common. Each reporter can be viewed as a witness adding a story and credibility to what was happening. The real-time reporter just does it instantly and is reporting on what is happening here and now. However, by looking back and forth and verifying content, she or he adds context and background to the instant story.

From a philosophical perspective, relevant and quality content is thus constructed by freezing an instant (Kairos) out of the flowing time continuum (Kronos), adding background and context to it and forming a story that then is fed back into the flowing time continuum. If in former times the commonly used story pattern in the Western world and media was a linear one (the "Hero's journey", from A to Z), the story pattern in real time is disruptive and non-linear, if not completely comprised in one instant, one image, one quote etc., which tells it all by activating the imagination of the user in a strongly interactive way.

The legendary tweet was shared by the political leader who became the first whose success is tightly connected to the professional way his team and he work with social media from the very beginning of his first presidential run. It's the social media bubble where they collect huge amounts of money, where they grow his audience, and where he reaches out to Youtubers and drives political campaigns like recent one in Alaska on urgent ecological change during the Fall of 2015. Obviously, catching up with real-time politics makes perfectly sense, if your voters and huge parts of society communicate and interact in that sphere, too.


Micro-stories enable instant connectivity

Looking at real-time reporting, we may refer to this example to explain it and how single images and selfies represent and tell a whole complex story by isolating one or a few micro-story elements. The audience will understand and complete it by adding individually and/or collectively shared knowledge and react to it interactively.

The digital storytelling in just segments, fragments, and lone images or isolated elements, which are broken out of a supposed story's continuum to tell the whole story at once, can be seen as the climax of the non-linear storytelling that evolved out of analogue techniques. In analogue films the individual images (and audio track, too) are successively shown and our brains artfully complement and connect them into a complete story, often told in a linear way.

Today, as if our brains have reached another level of connectivity - matching the rising network society - the majority of users seem able and willing to connect single images to multiple invisible storylines in the digital bubble. Social Media platforms like Pinterest "Tell it in one picture" or NowThis "One picture, One news" introduce this feature already in their claims and Snapchat works offensively with one image stories. It is the users' turn to visualise large parts of the stories through their associations. In this way, some users create interactive stories that they relate to in various ways, while others don't connect in a deeper way if at all. Thus the endless flow of information is levelled by the invisible information space. The challenge and task for digital content producers remains to create meaningful images which can trigger a complex story in the constructive mind of users.


III. The first-person reporter on scene:
What real-time reporting offers to digital journalism

The authors of this paper grew up in an analogue environment of linear mass media and mass communication. Generally speaking live broadcast was strictly restricted to the areas of sports, politics, and sometimes foreign correspondents' reports. From the early years on and during the following decades, live broadcasts were labelled either as breaking news or as an extra program on a live event on a national or international scale or a game show though often only live on camera and not live on air. Both concepts involved huge amounts of equipment, long hours of rehearsal, and a small group of risk-taking journalists and technicians facing a wide range of mistakes that might happen at any time. Then in the 1980s did live broadcasts become a more common format for talk and game shows. Actually, in the German context, it became a powerful driver in the competition between public and private media and suddenly live-talks and live-interviews were looked at as cheaper formats than seriously investigated and double-checked high quality content. In the course of the 1990s in both radio and television live broadcast would almost prevail over content researched and produced on a prolonged timeline. However, in today's evolutionary digital bubble of personalised mass self-communication, real-time content and real-time reporting does not have much in common with former live formats in mass media, which were more or less connected to a single event or moment on the timeline. They took place like a show on stage, as if a curtain was lifted at the beginning and closed at the end.


Real-time journalism in digital and social media offers restructured news and stories

As described in the prior section, real-time communication becomes the dominant form of communication and this development offers and also demands new ways of producing and sharing quality content. And for those of us who are interested in that development, one thing is clear from the start: new formats, concepts, and strategies for journalistic content - and for real-time reporting as such - have nothing in common with the old mass media and their concepts. Focusing here on real-time reporting, we may state that it takes place in digital and social media demanding a revolution in thinking and strategies. Wolfgang Blau, Director of Digital Strategy at The Guardian, believes that mobile is not about optimising for mobile screens but will be the key change agent for editorial propositions.

"It seems very likely to me that mobile journalism will require and will bring about the best writers journalism has ever seen because now you have to captivate readers and justify your writing screen by screen, no matter which style or genre. Eventually, mobile journalism might even lead to better print journalism."

We can't continue to think along the lines of the traditional models and structures. Instead we have to experiment thoughtfully in a completely different news environment, where old business models and familiar content structures and concepts are not longer in place and won't be in place for a much longer time.

Although the old models are powerful and we still talk about media formats as if there is a continuous connection - for example, as if videos can be shared equally well on TV and online and mobile - latest research and developments on the part of English language newsrooms like the BBC and the Washington Post reveal that online and social/mobile work very differently from to conventional formats that were successful in linear mass media; only to mention changed audience needs, user engagements, technical usability, content structure.

As analyzed and described in general by the American journalist and CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis, who invented the field of "Social Journalism," in his open resource book Geeks bearing gifts", news formats undergo a restructuring process driven by digital and social forces, better serving the needs and preconceptualized mind-set of the unique user. Personalized content aims first of all at the same process, and algorithms are getting better in achieving that by the day. On the same page we'll find the concept of "Structured News Stories" - and the platform founded by David Caswell. Both are useful to explain the new journalistic approach taken by real-time reporting and what it offers to high-quality digital journalism.

Journalists who work with real-time content and real-time reporting obviously keep working within the code of conduct of high-quality journalism, as they research the story, verify the facts, hunt for original voices and content, talk to independent sources, connect to the larger context, add verified background, and so on. The new frame in their coverage is based on three core pillars: first, the real-time effect, second, the work on a liquid timeline, and, third, the restructuring of news and stories. In the restructuring process, news and stories are broken down into components - from micro-size to long-form size - and shared at different points in time - from beforehand reporting to postdocumentation - and across diverse platforms - from Twitter to long-form reads and long-form reportages. In fact, real-time reporting makes perfect use of the real-time content factory driven by the digital nodes engine.


Media outlets worldwide rethink live journalism and experiment

The most intuitively accepted conception of real-time content is likely offered by the dimension of "shared experience," specifically coming into play through the instant real-time effect. Its impact on journalists and content producers in the world of news and media is felt on a global scale and journalists and newsrooms respond, again, in different styles and different speeds given by the cultural mind-set, the resources, and the business-oriented perspective they are driven by, to name at least the most influential factors in that complex field.

In countries and cultures where the number of mobile users is particularly high and even far above 90 percent of the total population, media outlets are more on the offensive side of real-time reporting than elsewhere. While in Germany it seems that a more reluctant attitude prevails among media professionals, we observe the contrary in the US, the UK, and the Nordic countries. To give an idea of what is going on there, we will briefly look into the latest developments in US newsrooms.

American media outlets recently began to organize live-talks and live-conferences that are streamed and recorded and followed up on over a long time period. Each qualifies for more in-depth feature stories. Each counts for the big asset to create a space where journalists and execs can physically and virtually connect with partners.

Newsrooms in the US also experimented with real-time reporting in the context of the State of the Union speech by President Obama in January, 2015. The Pulitzer Prize awarded PolitiFact newsroom live-blogged during the speech by using the annotation software "Genius." The journalists involved displayed the Fact Check "Obamameter" in real-time and chatted with readers who instantly commented or raised questions.

Afterwards the journalists concluded that for success and quality content in real time it is crucial to do your homework beforehand and to prepare as well as possible. They also made clear that only journalists who want to do real-time reporting can manoeuvre the specific challenges involving an curious and courageous personality. For success it is critical to keep an open mind, to have technical skills, and to not let yourself down by mistakes or unforeseen hurdles. Some things will go in the wrong direction and one has to be flexible and learn from it. However, there is no alternative to doing this first-hand and reviewing it again in hindsight. That is the only way to find out how to do things better.

The New York Times newsroom covered the first GOP Debate on August 30, 2015, with real-time reporting by using the live-stream software "Slack." An exciting thing about Slack is the possibility to work on multiple channels at the same time, so that live-blogging, moderating, and editing can be managed elegantly and minimize risks for the live-reporters.


Real-time reporting brings out the best in mobile journalism

The above-mentioned examples also make clear that real-time reporting is first and foremost mobile journalism, therefore often abbreviated as MoJo. Wrapping up what we mapped out in the first section and the foregoing paragraphs, we'll now conclude our paper with a short summary of the basic lines relevant for the field of real-time reporting in digital and social media.


Wrapping up (1): Advantages at work

As pointed out in part one, the first-person reporter becomes an indispensable actor in real-time reporting and has to be visibly or/and audibly present. This factor clearly takes the opposite approach to the former "deus ex machina" model, where the original voice was often presented without proper context or any connection to the interviewer and journalist, in order to serve the concept of objectivity.

This new approach changes journalism tremendously and poses a challenge to journalists who are used to work with the preconception of being objective reporters. For example, BBC social media editor Chris Hamilton openly admitted in May 2015 that the BBC has yet to overcome a strong reluctance on part of their experienced reporters. Instead of claiming objectivity, now in real-time journalism the first-person reporter puts the constructive aspect of her or his coverage into the open. Our colleague Flemming Svith at DMJX defines this new perspective as "deliberate," as opposed to both "objective" and "subjective."

The first-person reporter triggers a pervasive sense of empathy and pulls instant attention to a story. She or he is the direct connection to the story, shares a "true" experience of someone else's perspective on-scene and adds context and background to a story enfolding within immersive environments. For trained and well-prepared journalists, the chance and the challenge lie in working under time pressure and working on-scene to find the deeper and informative angle to the story and report on it. The most persuasive beauty of real-time reporting can be found in the low-key and hands-on reporting to which interviewees generally respond with much wider openess and much more personal and direct insights than in front of high-key technology or in studios.

Mobile works perfectly well on social and today journalists can make use of numberless easy-to-work-with apps, which allows them to create and design unique content, at an extremely fast speed - in real time - without long transfers from smartphone to hard disk to media outlet and other platforms. That way real-time reporting expands stories from just one image to in-depth background added by the reporter on scene. She or he gather, edit, and produce in a mobile-friendly format, fast and direct, and the social feed is the major feed to reach out to the audience.

Looking at a story from Benjamin's "crime scene" approach, the reporter needs to investigate, to add credibility, to guide through the story and scenery, to react interactively to audience comments, and to follow up on the story over a prolonged timeline.

That is the general outline of the setting demanding a skillfull, well-trained journalist, with an open mind for experimentation. We are just starting to explore this new field of quality coverage in digital and social.


Wrapping up (2): What is needed to explore real-time reporting

In order to establish and guarantee researched and verified quality content in real time, we have arrived at a basic concept of a triad: preparation - action - documentation. Among the three, preparation is extremely critical, in terms of deciding which technology will be used, where to host the live-stream, how to make it as fast as possible, which reporters are willing to work experimentally, quickly and to take risks, how to verify reports and posts, and along which lines to make editorial decisions or which content is useful for beforehand reporting.

When it comes to the active reporting on scene, journalists say they find it useful to have in mind to highlight only the important stuff, to add audible and visible background, from the location, to add movement and take users on a guided tour, to find relevant people to talk to and do live-interviews with, and to keep it simple but profound.

Our last advice on this is: get started and don't be afraid, start with something simple, look for opportunities, and keep asking loads of questions!

Give it a go! Happy exploring!


IV. Sources


Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte (1940), in: Abhandlungen, Gesammelte Schriften, Band I.2, hg. v. Rolf Tiedemann und Hermann Schweppenhäuser, Frankfurt am Main 1974.

Manuel Castells, The rise of the network society, Chichester 2010.

Michel Foucault, L'ordre des choses (1966), dt.: Die Ordnung der Dinge, Frankfurt am Main 1974.

Jeff Jarvis, Geeks bearing gifts, @Jeff Jarvis 2014.

Steven Johnson, Wo gute Ideen herkommen. Eine kurze Geschichte der Innovation, Scoventa. 2014.

John Truby, The Anatomy of story, New York 2007.

Cornelia Wolf, Mobiler Journalismus, Angebote, Produktionsroutinen und redaktionelle Strategien deutscher Print- und Rundfunkredaktionen, Baden-Baden 2014.



Wolfgang Blau, Now what? Journalism needs new metrics, Medium, 21.9.2015:

Yusuf Omar, Selfie journalism, When the smartphone meets storytelling + sharing, 2015:





Kristian Strǿbech, Webinar "Finding and listening to conversations on Social Media", 2015:


V. Short bios of the authors:

Marie Elisabeth Müller

is Professor of Cross-media Journalism at the Media University Stuttgart. Her areas of specialisation are: Innovative content strategies, Future of news, Digital storytelling and Intercultural communication. She holds a doctorate in media studies/philosophy (University Constance). She worked for a long time as a journalist, editor, writer and producer at the public broadcast station SWR in Stuttgart and Baden-Baden. Later she moved on and worked as a lecturer at universities in Nairobi and Berlin. Her book Mietek Pemper, The road to rescue. Schindler's List - the true story, was published in 2005 by Hoffmann and Campe and has since been translated into many languages.


Annegrete Skovbjerg

is Project director and teacher at Update, Danish School for Media and Journalism. She has several years experience in training media companies in digital storytelling on different platforms and in new journalistic roles. For the past years she has focused on online video, mobile journalism and multimedia storytelling. Skovbjerg has used this focus in contributions to books and reports as well as workshops and mid-carrier training.


Kristian Strǿbech

is Associate Professor at the Danish School for Media and Journalism and is considered an international expert in social media management and real-time reporting. He has been working for fifteen years in the field of Social Media and Web Content and before that he was an executive journalist in the media industry, as editor and foreign correspondent at TV 2 DK and as editor-in-chief at Bonnier World publications. In his time as a foreign correspondent for TV 2 DK he lived in South Africa and traveled the world.





Erschienen in:

IDEepolis Konferenzband 2016
Auf den Seiten: 21
Autoren: Müller, Marie Elisabeth / Skovbjerg, Annegrete / Strǿbech, Kristian
Hrsg.: Prof. Dr. Petra Grimm, Prof. Dr. Michael Müller
Erscheinungsjahr: 2016
Verlag: Franz Steiner Verlag
Ort: Stuttgart


Annegrete Skovbjerg
Kristian Strǿbech

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