Day 3: Real-time coverage

Today’s Agenda

Understanding how fans follow sports news

Using twitter effectively

Producing interesting and engaging live-blogs

Assignments for students

1. Understanding how fans follow sports news

As mentioned in Day 1, by the time fans read the postgame story or see the postgame video package, they will already know the outcome of the contest. Increasingly, fans are following events online in real-time. This includes press conferences, games and even breaking news.

The recent scandal involving Penn State’s football program is a good example. Various terms related to the story were trending topics on twitter in the week the story broke. Reporters live-tweeted everything from the press conferences to the riots following the announcement of Joe Paterno’s firing.

Similarly, during games, online news websites have the power to allow fans to follow the game in real-time. This helps fans who cannot watch the game, or are looking for a complement to what they are watching in person or on television. The two most common ways to produce real-time coverage on news websites is through live-tweeting and live-blogs. For high school coverage or “smaller” collegiate sports there are generally no limits to doing so. However, reporters covering major collegiate games or professional contests often face barriers to producing such coverage and are limited in the amount of information they may update. Still, real-time coverage is a staple of online news websites. The easily-digestible delivery (short, bullet-style nuggets of information) is an increasingly popular form of coverage and reporters should be well versed on how to do this effectively.

2. Using Twitter effectively

News outlets are increasingly using twitter to both report the news and direct readers to their websites. Often the outlet will have a twitter handle, as will various individual reporters. A first way to use twitter is to post breaking news before the story is written. Take, for instance, an example in Minnesota. The local news station WCCO posted the following tweet about Brett Favre signing with the team:



Within 30 minutes of sending the tweet, WCCO was a top 3 trending topic on twitter and within one hour, WCCO’s website had 100,000 hits, compared to the regular 30,000 it usually had per hour. This is an excellent example of how tweeting breaking news can elevate a news outlet’s credibility and create an expanded audience.


A second way to use twitter is to direct followers to content posted on your website. The best way to do this is provide a brief explanation of that content with a link and appropriate hashtags (see below for discussion of this important part of twitter.) Below is an example from the USA Today:



When using twitter, it is important to use relevant hashtags. A hashtag is the “#” symbol in front of a term, such as #LadyVols or #Paterno, for instance. It creates an instant link that twitter users can click on, which takes them to a page where all twitter posts feature that hashtag. Doing so raises the chances of acquiring followers – essentially expanding your audience — and disseminating information quickly and widely. Sometimes it is useful to establish a new hashtag for a specific story. For instance, reporter Adam Smeltz of established the hashtag #PSUcharges for all information related to the breaking story in State College. Simply send out a tweet informing followers of the hashtag and then include it on the end of every relevant tweet.


Example:’s Adam Smeltz’ live-tweeted a press conference with the newly-appointed Penn State President, Rodney Erickson. Notice the use of the hashtag and mix of information, from direct quotes, to paraphrased information.



Finally, reporters will often “live-tweet” games or events, which means they send out a steady stream of tweets keeping fans apprised of developing information or action. For the purposes here, I will focus on live-tweeting game action. Good live-tweeting includes key statistics and plays, but is not simply a running play-by-play of the game. More importantly, live tweets should include observation and assessment.

Example: Look at the live-tweets by Altoona Mirror reporter Corey Giger of the Penn State-Nebraska football game, Nov. 12, 2011 (the first game following the infamous scandal in that university’s football program.) Notice the mix of game action, atmosphere description and analysis.

3. Producing interesting and engaging live-blogs

A growing and increasingly popular form of sports coverage is the live-blog (also called “glog” or game-blog). The potential for interactivity and real-time information delivery make the live-blog especially conducive for online news websites.

Some live-blogs are simply posted on an outlet’s website; updates are accompanied by a time stamp. Below is an example from f live-blog of the 2010 Wimbledon tennis event:


However, you can currently create a live-blog for free using software called This software allows for interactivity which elevates the power of the liveblog; fans can pose questions and the live-blogger can also post polls for readers. Follow these steps to set up and post a live-blog using this software:

1)    Go to and set up an account

2)    Once you have completed item No. 1, go to, and click on “Try it Now”

3)    Set up your live-blog, filling in the date and time that it will start, the name of the live-blog, the website location (your news website name) date and time zone.

4)    After you hit “next” it will automatically give you an embed code.

5)    Copy the embed code and post it to your website. Each website may be slightly different, but the following directions should work:

  1. Go to “Add New” under posts at your ISONN website’s admin page
  2. Click on the html tab
  3. Paste in the embed code

6)    Note: If for some reason you need the embed code again and you are on your actual live blog, simply click on the “tools” menu at on the left-hand side and then on “get embed code.” Follow item No. 5 from here.

Like live-tweeting, good live-blogs avoid rote play-by-play and instead capture atmosphere and color and unique assessment and analysis while also keeping fans up to date on score changes and key plays. In order to do a good live-blog, reporters should conduct extensive background research beforehand. Doing so enables reporters to provide assessment and analysis. In sum, reporters must be aware of key storylines related to the team they are covering. Without preparation, the live-blog is in danger of becoming a dry play-by-play account. For instance, read these two posts from a recent live-blog covering a Columbia-Dartmouth football game:

Bell hands off to Gerst, who heads to the right sideline and carries it to the 26-yard line, which is good for the first down.
I’m thinking Gerst could be a really key player for the Lions today with Brackett out. Normally Brackett does a lot of running himself and we see Gerst pretty quiet, but he was pretty clutch at times last year, so he could be really key today with the passing game outlook being kind of bleak.

The first post describes the action – a running play. The next post to the live-blog provides some context and assessment, by noting the role that running back is playing in the game. A fan posted a question shortly thereafter, illustrating the potential for interactivity:

Comment From Guest  

since when was brackett benched?

He got hit at the end of last week’s game. He mentioned in the post-game press conference that he “couldn’t run”. He said it, other players said it, coach Wilson said it, so he’s not doing well. Not surprised not to see him out today, though we were of course hoping he’d be out there. Jerry Bell’s doing better so far than he did in last year’s game against Brown.

Assignments for students

1. Live-tweeting a press conference.

2. Evaluating live-blogs



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