I have a very modest little Twitter account – but I am fond of it, no matter how small it is.
Lately, I’ve been using it to focus on something I call the Story Of The Day.
It’s a concept that dates back to my days in full-time employment, when I was part of the team running Independent Online – or sometimes the only person running one of its subsidiary channels.
I’ve written about the concept of curation before, but the IOL challenge was different. What we – and all news sites – were trying to do was superimpose order on the many, many issues, events and opinions flooding online platforms, so as to present to our readers what we thought they needed to know, and what they were telling us they were interested in.
For myself, and as a manager of teams, I came up with the informal idea of the “story of the day”. This meant sorting through all the streams of copy that came our way, looking for several things:
* Events that are genuinely significant (Zuma resigns)
* Events that are already talking points – on the way to work, you hear two or three people phone into talk radio, very cross about something that happened overnight. And yes it is all over Twitter, and your site’s Facebook page. Go to it: find something on it, get it up fast.
* Events that seem likely to turn into talking points – sometimes these are obvious: land expropriation might on the face of it seem a mere political story, but it will obviously set off a heated debate. And sometimes you just have a feeling in your bones – I thought Elon Musk’s latest space flight had something in it, even before it became evident that there was a car in orbit around the earth.
* Events that are important but simply not of interest to a lot of readers – Budget debates being one example. And oddly enough the Oscars – in several years of running the entertainment arm of IOL, never once did a story about the winners/losers/speeches attract the smallest amount of interest. But the gallery with the pictures of the dresses in it was always a winner. These are stories that must be looked at because they are important on conventional news scales, even though you know they may not be what readers were looking for.
If you’re running any kind of online news operation, you need to understand what your story of the day is – even if you have to change your ideas several times in the course of the day. But if you have three or four of these in your sights, you are more easily able to decide what stories to invest effort in, and which you are regretfully going to have to ignore.
So, early every morning, ask yourself and your team members: “What are the stories of the day?”
For myself, I’m currently doing an early morning shift on a contract for allAfrica.com, and spend about 15 minutes on my Twitter lists every morning, looking for the African story of the day. And it occurred to me with a quick retweet or two, I could share my ideas about the story of the day, in the hope that the exercise would prove useful to fellow news junkies!