Homepage and Breaking News

Homepage and Breaking News

Calling the Washington governor’s race, November 2012. 📸: Joni Balter

A big part of my work as an associate news producer at The Seattle Times was homepage production and breaking news. Some of the scariest — and ultimately most satisfying — moments of my career have occurred just after a big story breaks. The flurry of activity that follows is an incredible adrenaline rush.

Sometimes it was a national story we picked up from the AP. For a stretch, it began with an email from our Boeing/aerospace reporter or his editor, alerting us to a story that would affect thousands of people in the region. I loved the rush, the furious multitasking and, after the tempest quiets, the sense that this job really matters.

Breaking news I’ve handled at The Seattle Times:

  • Deadly Oso mudslide, March 2014: homepage and social media as the story broke, several email news alerts. Helped strategize homepage play and story-level packaging for weeks afterward.
  • Local TV station’s helicopter crash: homepage and social media
  • Election 2012: homepage during the day, then Twitter with the executive editor as ballots were being counted. Most thrilling moment: Calling the governor’s race during a night shift. (Handled homepage, news-alert emails, social media.)
  • Boston Marathon bombing: included 24-hour homepage staffing and multiple late-night calls to our managing and executive editors
  • Boeing: ran the homepage during landmark union votes and breaking-news events involving the Boeing Dreamliner Sports: homepage production during NFL, MLB, MLS and college sports games

Examples of Seattle Times homepage production

Amanda Knox convicted of murder — again

This was a memorable shift for two reasons. First, we knew the Amanda Knox verdict was due from the Italian court sometime around 11 a.m. our time. When the verdict was handed down, I built a homepage centerpiece as quickly as I could and got updates out on Twitter.

Mere minutes after that, the news broke that Microsoft had reportedly tapped a new CEO. I hadn’t been planning on having to find space on the homepage for another big, local story, but stripping Microsoft across the top felt like the right level of play. Since the man in question wasn’t a known name, we quickly whipped up some HTML to get his mug on the homepage.

The Seattle Times, Jan. 31, 2014

After tense weeks, finally a “yes” vote

This presentation followed a landmark vote by Boeing Machinists to accept a manufacturing contract for the 777X jet, despite major concessions in the contract. This was the conclusion of a tense few weeks of covering an unpredictable story with big ramifications in the Northwest.

The Seattle Times, Jan. 4, 2014

When the photo makes the story

For us, one consideration in deciding how to play stories on the homepage is quality of photos. We’re lucky to have many talented photographers on staff, and some days an image caught by one of our shooters is too good not to play up. This was a quiet — and sunny! — news day, so when a staff photographer called in about a whale in shallow waters, we jumped at the chance to get it on the site. The same shot that’s the centerpiece here was predictably quite popular on social media, as well.

The Seattle Times, June 19, 2013