Wave for Webjournos | The right tool, the right time

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | 9:10 AM


This is a guest post from Cory Haik, Assistant Managing Editor, Seattletimes.com.

On April 12, 2010, it was announced The Seattle Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for coverage of the tragic slayings of four Lakewood, Wash., police officers on November 29, 2009. That honor recognized the work of the entire newsroom and the award goes to the whole staff. I'd like to extend that just a bit.

As a Web journalist, it's all about choosing the right tools wisely. Sometimes those tools are the tried and true. Like a notebook and pen. Shoe-leather, feet-on-the-street reporting should never be taken for granted or displaced by shiny new products. But sometimes, well, it's all about the beta, baby. Like going live from an iPhone with the Ustream broadcaster app. Or like a Twitter hashtag stream on your homepage. Or like Google Wave.

Below is an excerpt from the quick piece I wrote for seattletimes.com the day after the manhunt for the shooting suspect was over. It describes some of the social-tool uses which were a critical part of the online breaking news coverage of this traumatic community event. Using Google Wave was something we thought of in the moment -- and in the middle of a breaking story that already included several social media elements.

Seattletimes.com decided at the height of the story to engage with local citizenry and others through a social media experiment. Google Wave, described by Google as, "an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration," became a live document that allowed folks on the web interested in the story to take part in helping move it forward. It was social media, reporting and online journalism at the next level. At least, a crack at it.

Some elements of the wave included links to police scanner audio, live video, information about road closures, school lockdowns, suspect information and more. A manhunt map was created inside the wave and updated by participants. And a map was linked inside the wave that seattletimes.com then used on the site. It was useful to producers updating the site because they could put information out and get tips back, instantly. We then could pass the tips on to the Metro desk and follow along that way. It was like using Twitter with a real-time response and rich content.

Despite the fact that we reached fewer than 500 people and encountered a couple of technical glitches, I'd like to think that using Google Wave was successful. And if the No. 1 rule of social media -- or at least my No. 1 rule of social media -- is that using it as it's useful to you is the rule, then I am quite confident it was.

Thanks to the folks at Google Wave for giving me this place to post. And here's where I'd like to extend the breaking news award to all the users that read and engaged with our site, to all the @seattletimes followers and especially to the folks that jumped into our Google Wave experiment (PDF of the wave). It was picking up one of the right tools for this breaking news coverage. And that's the key to serving the story and serving the user-- the two most important things.