When dealing with an unexpected situation that interrupts the everyday flow of the newsroom, it is important for a news organization to have a crisis plan. A crisis plan is helpful because it can provide structure and order during a time that may become chaotic and uncertain. When events like natural disasters and shootings happen, the public is looking to the media to provide as much information as quickly as possible. Having a plan allows a news group to keep up with a story rather than letting it get away.
In a case like the Tucson shootings, the first thing I would have done as an editor would be to send a pair of reporters and a photographer to the scene of the crime and to the hospital. In a widely publicized event like this one, the are bound to be a lot of other reporters looking to interview officials and witnesses. It’s likely the reporters would have to wait for officials to release certain information, either at the scene of the crime or at a separate location for a press conference. Of course, the reporters would need to find out the basic information about the case, including, how many people were hurt/ killed, is the suspect in custody, who is the suspect and is there still a threat of more violence. Once these first questions are answered, the information would be written into a quick story and posted immediately to the website. Next, the reporters would dig a little deeper to find out more information (what was the shooter’s motive, who is he, who was his target, who were the victims, etc.). This information is important to know but is not pressing. To answer these questions, the reporters would probably look to talk to Gabrielle Giffords’ family, her office and aides, the family of the other victims and the shooter’s family. One avenue that shouldn’t be overlooked is social networking sites. If the shooter had a Facebook or Myspace account, a blog or a website, then they could provide insight into his motives and the type of person he is. It’s necessary to look at these right away and save them because in a case like this, law enforcement officials would want to close them off immediately.
Another important thing to do is to maintain the lines of communication between the newsroom and the reports who were sent out. When there’s an update it needs to be put on the website. There should probably be at least one in-house person responsible for keeping the website’s information updated and fresh. The important thing to do in crisis cases is to be accurate and timely. Having a plan lets a news group do both in an efficient and organized way.