Paul GallagherLive blogging 'transforms journalism'

Live blogging is one of the most important developments in journalism and has transformed coverage of local democracy and the criminal justice system, according to Paul Gallagher, head of online content at the Manchester Evening News.

At a special guest lecture at Sheffield University, Gallagher described how the MEN and its sister weekly newspapers in Greater Manchester have embraced live blogging as a way of bringing a new audience to its websites.

The “light bulb” moment, said Gallagher, was in October 2009 when rival demonstrations from the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism took place in Manchester.

30,000 followers

“It took place on a Saturday afternoon – a bit of a dead time for evening newspapers with 48 hours before the next edition goes into print.

“There was a lot of anxiety in the city with people wondering if it was safe to go shopping and worrying about friends and relatives in the city centre.

“Our live blog was very successful with 30,000 people following it and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“Our reporters were alongside the police and we also managed to get a splash for Monday’s newspaper on the cost of policing the demonstration. We realised the live blogging and traditional journalism were not incompatible.”

Since then the MEN has run a series of live blogs on everything from last winter’s severe weather, to the Stone Roses press conference when they announced their reunion, to the naming of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand at Old Trafford.

Riots live blog

In addition full council meetings at 14 local authorities as well as police, fire and transport authorities are all live blogged.

Reporters have been equipped with Nokia N8 smartphones and trained to Tweet and to operate live blogs.

Gallagher said that when the riots hit Manchester and Salford in August this year the reporting team were ready. The riots live blog contained 1,277 Tweets, 5,000 comments, 34,000 words and attracted 180,000 views.

“We have seen that live blogging is an idea that allows journalists working in print organisations to take the news to a new audience who are more used to using mobile phones and computers rather than newspapers.”

Gallagher’s lecture was the latest in a series of guest spots organised by the University’s Department of Journalism Studies.