Move Over CNN: LFPress redefines the 24 hour news cycle with Tori Stafford case

Disclaimer: This post discusses media coverage of a breaking news story. It does NOT cover the story itself – please refer to the news sites below for information regarding the Tori Stafford arrests (May 20, 09)

This morning the news broke that arrests had been made in the Tori Stafford abduction case (now a murder case).  With pictures of the missing 8 year old posted almost anywhere you go, the community is definitely engaged with the case and its outcome.

Several news/media outlets have been providing real-time coverage, to a level not seen before in London news:

Other news outlets have gotten stories pushed out, but not with the same real-time approach:

The London Free Press coverage has been by far the most engaging – AM980 as always is pushing out the headlines as they are confirmed, hitting me on my phone, email and twitter – but it’s LFPress that has had me glued to the case all morning.

An optional chatroom is built into the video window of the LFPress live updates with @PJatLFPress and @DanatLFPress.

Screen capture of LFPress's LiveStream.com coverage of Tori Stafford arrests on May 20, 2009

Screen capture of LFPress's LiveStream.com coverage of Tori Stafford arrests on May 20, 2009

Libel

The chat room has gone up and down throughout the morning with repeated requests from the hosts to keep conversation civil, and to remember that as a newspaper LFPress must adhere to libel law and avoid any pronouncement of guilt until a trial is completed. During one of the updates the chatroom was turned off by the hosts because there were things being said that they didn’t want to have on the LFPress website/online property.  The video window is powered by livestream.com but also embedded into the latest Tori Stafford article from earlier today.  Should webhosts be responsible for user-generated content on their sites? LFPress has been incredibly open to UGC throughout the morning, so they are getting no critcism for this minor shutdown – fair enough, especially if it keeps lawyers happy enough to allow the live updates to continue.

Tips

Within seconds of the first announcement of the names of the arrested individuals, a user posted “OMG I know him” in the chatroom.  Both @PJatLFPress and @DanatLFPress have been doing  a fantastic job of watching the  chat even while making their updates and have picked up on several users who may have information to contribute to the breaking story.  Both gave their email addresses out over the air and PJ also gave his phone number and specifically named 2 individuals he invited to call him directly at the office.

Chatroom contributors are combing the web for facebook profiles, news articles, videos, pictures, rumours etc and posting them live through the chatroom – a great source of misinformation but also an army of street reporters helping Dan and PJ stay abreast of everything going on online.

Update: In the 12:30pm update, PJ began the broadcast with this message: ” … we want to keep the chatroom open because the informaiton that you’re feeding us is invaluable … if you don’t chat by our rules, we’ll have to kick you out of the chatroom …”

Criticism

While the chat is liberally peppered with “ty” and “thx” from users showing their appreciation of the live coverage, there are others who are hearing new information from other news sources and condemning LFPress for being behind.  CP24 is said to have announced a third arrest as well as the discovery of a body.  Dan and PJ addressed these topics in their 12:00 update, saying that they had no confirmation of either fact and that they would announce when confirmed.

Advertising

One user posted that video was available on the A Channel and also www.point30.com.  I wrote point30.com off as a dating site at first glance and was frustrated by the repeated referrals to this link by a user.  It is actually an online community for parents – but as the only related content I see is a discussion thread, there really isn’t much value in this link – and there certainly isn’t the video that was promised.  The audience at LFPress.com’s live video stream is at 4,126 (12:25pm) and climbing constantly (it was around 2,000 two hours ago).  4,126 captive viewers with an unfiltered chatroom is going to be very attractive to spammers.  (I’ve been thinking a lot about my social marketing manifesto & social ethics … post to come).

Outside of LFPress.com, a user on twitter has used the current trending words (including “Tori Stafford”) to promote a casino website:

Screencap of Tori Stafford Twitter Spamming

Screencap of Tori Stafford Twitter Spamming

And in other cases, just in attempts to be witty:

Tori Stafford Spam on Twitter

Tori Stafford Spam on Twitter

And then the backlash:

Backlash against Tori Stafford Twitter Spam

Backlash against Tori Stafford Twitter Spam

Really, I’m sure some of the spammers have no idea who Tori Stafford even is or how insensitive their user of her name is – but I do still hope that they get deleted regardless.  I can’t seem to find a “report” button …

People aren’t reporters

The chatroom is filled with messages of grief “my heartfelt sympathy to the mcdonalds and the staffords” “((hugs)) rodney”, attacks (against the arrested “CANADA JUSTICE SYSTEM – WAKE UP AND SEND THESE PEOPLE TO THE GRAVE”, against the family), and with unconfirmed news.  PJ and Dan are constantly reanswering questions and also correcting the chatters regarding unconfirmed information being stated as fact.  The same questions are repeated almost every 2 seconds – where did they live? how old are they? has the body been found?

“Can you hear us?”

One nice feature of the live chat is the ability of users to communicate whether the video is working, whether the sound is clear or the lighting is too low, or if they think the chatroom should be closed.

Overall

Very interesting to watch this unfold – the case itself is beyond tragic and hearts everywhere are going out to the parents, family and friends.  The coverage of the case throws me back to Dr. Nolan’s class (MIT 024) where we got into the dawn of the 24 hour news cycle and CNN and the impacts on journalism.  Suddenly you have this powerful television platform acting very much the way that LFPress is seeing its chatroom today perhaps – announcing things quick and dirty, with risk to incorrect information and more.  What we considered the 24 hour news cycle back when CNN launched has been replaced by a much busier, much less reliable global network of reporters often totally lacking training in journalism or news reporting – bringing information to the surface that may have never been found otherwise, asking questions that might not have been thought of.

More: #ToriStafford on Twitter

2 Comments

  1. Great coverage of the coverage. I was able to catch a few glances of CP24 through the day but didn’t have access to LFPress.com content. I really feel like I missed-out now!

    I hope this experience with UGC turns out really positive for both the paper and its readers so it continues to progress.

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  1. Devil in the Details of Tori Stafford’s Story | brianfrank.ca - [...] my distance, it was actually not even the story itself but the way The London Free Press has covered it that…

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