Real-time news in Las Vegas: The Federal Courthouse shooting

Sorry about the lack of posts lately.

Any way you slice it, there have been lots of things going on … with our company, with the holidays, and lots of huge events and big breaking news here in Las Vegas. I’m eventually going to try to write about all of those things.

But for today, I want to quickly focus on how our week began at the Las Vegas Sun.

On Monday morning, a gunman opened fire at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse. I found out about this story as I was getting ready to head in to work. An alert came across my iPhone via the CNN app.

My first response was something like, “holy crap, I hope we know about this.” But the reality — at least from an online news editor’s perspective — was even better than that: Not only did we know about it, but we had already posted a story about it.

Sometime throughout all of this, I posted a link to our coverage about the shooting on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Our coverage was not only very thorough, but very multimedia-based. Later that day, I got a question via Facebook about how we went about covering this event and how big our online staff is. My response to that question is essentially below:

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Technically, all of our company’s publications — print and online — share one newsroom. But for the most part, folks are primarily assigned to one publication/topic, with lots of overlap.

Our converged newsroom does the content for the print and online versions of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and the Las Vegas Weekly entertainment magazine, as well Vegas magazine (high-end luxury) and Las Vegas Magazine (which is the tourist magazine found in basically every hotel room in Vegas). In Business, which is a weekly business newspaper, also is produced by the Greenspun Newsroom.

Because of the unique JOA in Las Vegas, the print edition of our newspaper does more news-magazine-type journalism. It rarely does “daily” stories. That means breaking news on our newspaper’s website comes from basically a different group of journalists who focus on daily/breaking news.

But — as I mentioned earlier — there is a ton of overlap on a daily basis.

Our news operation has 12 writers dedicated primarily to the print mission of the Las Vegas Sun. Our online news operation has three full-time reporters, as well as two interns who essentially operate as full-time reporters. We have three online editors — two dayside, one nightside. One designer. One Flash developer. And two dedicated news videographers.

We average almost 30 locally originated “breaking news” stories each day on the lasvegassun.com website and that doesn’t happen without significant help from the writers who also write primarily for the Sun’s print mission. The other side of that is that different versions of stories originally written for our website’s daily news strategies sometimes not only end up in the print edition of the Sun, but sometimes even lead it.

We also have a new-media special projects editor who helps us put together a pay Nevada politics newsletter, writes lots of stories and fills in as our online editor whenever needed.

We have three full-time, new-media sports reporters, along with two full-time sports interns. We also have one full-time sports videographer.

Our converged newsroom has five photographers who shoot for basically every print and online publication our company owns.

So, back to the question …

The news side of lasvegassun.com is basically three full-time reporters, three editors, two videographers and a few interns.

The coverage of the courthouse shooting was handled by our online managing editor, Tim Richardson.

Tim first posted the story about the shooting at 8:43 in the morning after hearing from a reporter primarily dedicated to the print mission of the Sun that something big was apparently happening downtown. Tim called the cops to find out what was going on and then posted four paragraphs.

From that point, we got our online courts reporter involved and sent two of our online interns to the scene.

A photographer and videographer were sent to the scene, as well.

A “print” reporter (and I’ve got to be careful using that term because it will likely get me in trouble with our operation’s leadership) also helped fill in some of the details, as did the editor of our weekly business paper … who also is probably one of the most online proficient “traditional” newspaper people I’ve ever met in my life. He just “gets” the internet, and uses it not only as a powerful and immediate publishing tool, but also in his research and reporting.

(Look, I know it seems a little dated to use a term like “gets the internet” when describing a journalist in a 2010 mainstream-media newsroom, but it still seems appropriate and accurate in this instance.)

The text, photos and videos for the story were updated throughout the day on our site. The updates were constant. As were the comments to the story.

Sometimes updates came via phone calls and text messages from our journalists, and sometimes via e-mail.

As soon as cell phone video of the shooting hit YouTube, we embedded the video into our story.

So, what we got was coverage produced 100 percent for lasvegassun.com. None of the content that you see in the links above appeared in the print edition of the Las Vegas Sun.

The print edition of the Sun had a “second-day” story about how the George Federal Building in downtown Las Vegas was the first such facility in the nation to be designed to standards to withstand the kind of lethal blast that buckled the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The front page of the Sun looked like this the following morning. Because our print edition doesn’t behave like a paper of record, you’ll notice that our story about the shooting is on the bottom of the front page.

For stories like this, it’s always interesting to be in our combined news meetings each morning. If there is a story that we feel needs to be in our print edition, but we’re certain that our competitor will have something on the same subject, then our thought processes turn to what will be an angle that the other newspaper in town likely won’t have.

That’s why our print story is played the way it is played on the front page and why it isn’t a story about the details of the shooting, but instead about the security at the courthouse.

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rcurley

Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.