Any news that can break, will break.
There's a concept understood by anyone who works or has worked in a newsroom... it's known as Breaking News Friday. It is basically a kind-of Murphy's Law... but for breaking news (Any news that can break, will break). If you search #BreakingNewsFriday on twitter, you'll find journalists talking about it. Breaking News Friday is what happens when every story "breaks" at once, or at least in rapid succession. Breaking News Friday doesn't happen every Friday, but when crazy stories break, they usually do so on a Friday.
Today was one of those days: a seven-hour standoff with a man in a blue bus, a heavily-followed trial verdict and a missing plane found.
Three things are true about huge breaking news situations in a good newsroom:
1. There are a lot of decisions being made that you never see
Should we fly the helicopter? Can we fly the helicopter? How many reporters do we have? Where is every reporter? Who is closest? Is it confirmed? Can we report that? Who will talk? Where is the media staging? The list goes on. We're asking and answering a lot of questions behind the scenes, so that what you see on air is a seamless product. One of the best ways to deal with everything, that I've seen, is gathering everyone who is in-house for a quick meeting. We all get on the same page and then tackle a breaking story. It doesn't take much, we all know what needs to be done. We need to tell the story.
2. All hands on deck
You will never see a busier newsroom, than when every story is breaking. You'll hear a lot of people saying "what can I do" and "how can I help" and "what do you need." There will be a lot of shouting because we are doing our very best to get all of the information.
3. Something will go wrong, but more things will go right.
A good newsroom's top priority is to "get it right." It doesn't always happen that way. We're working quickly, computers usually want to slow down at that point in time. Typos happen, batteries die and sometimes the system just won't play audio. Glitches happen. You learn from them, create workarounds for next time, and then next time is even better. When you have a good newsroom team, the story you told better than anyone else, far outweighs the things you couldn't control on Breaking News Friday.