Keep us honest: How we handle breaking news

Misinformation during breaking news, like the OSU shooting, can complicate the process.

ST. PETERSBURG — After a great deal of misinformation surrounding the attack at Ohio State University Monday, we took your questions live on Facebook Tuesday about how we handle breaking news situations at 10News.We decided to walk around our newsroom to gather a variety of perspectives.

REPORTER MARK RIVERA: The first big question: "Where do we get our information?"

The newsroom's assignment desk is the nerve center in the newsroom. We're getting information from all different sources. I asked our assignment manager, Christina Louv. "What's the first step when there is breaking news?"

LOUV: Well the first thing we always want to do, whether it's when we hear something on our scanners or we get a phone call, whether it's on email or social media, the very first thing we want to do is confirm this information that we are seeing and hearing.

I have a list of police agencies. Once I know where the breaking news is, I find which agency is working it, and I will call that agency, whether it's a sheriff's department, police department or fire personnel – perhaps all of them.

We get on the phone with them  and say, "Hey, what are you hearing? When did the call come in? What do you know?" And then I moved from there.

RIVERA: Once you get that confirmed that's when you send reporters like me and photographers out to the scene.

Throughout this whole thing we work very closely with the 10News web department and our web desk, so I talked to one of our web producers, Matt Parke, who puts our breaking news up on social media and posts to the website.

Matt, what do you do to make sure what we're posting on our website is the real deal?

PARKE: Well, first of all, I look for official sources. You know, anything coming out from police, from aviation agencies, anything that comes across Twitter and Facebook.

RIVERA: If we don't know that it's reliable, if it's a chaotic breaking a situation, we look at it and say 'OK I'm not sure this is the real deal but we want to let you know just in case it is.'

Our executive producer Melissa Dart is the producer of the evening shows here. So Melissa, what do you do to make sure what folks are seeing and hearing is accurate?

DART: Well, first of all, I'm always in contact with the reporters. We have a party line where everyone can call in. All of the producers are on it, including myself, the assistant news director and anyone else who's a decision maker here, and we are just very specific.

What have you confirmed? Who confirmed that? Is that a reliable source? Is that someone that we feel comfortable going on TV and web making sure that people know that is what they can rely on? So we are very careful on who we consider is a source.

RIVERA: One of the things that I think is interesting is that when you're looking at this information when we don't know, we credit who were getting the information from.

DART: Once hundred percent. I tell you if it's fire rescue that's telling you that. We're very specific - is that Hillsborough fire rescue? Pinellas fire rescue. What district are you in? What is it? Because if something comes back, we can say this is what they originally told us and this is what's changed – or this is what's not confirmed yet. Same goes for witnesses.

RIVERA: That brings us to the whole point of this news changes fast and we need your help. If we're doing something wrong, tell us. If we're doing something right, tell us. Because we live in Tampa Bay and we love this community. And we want to be a resource for you.
 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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