2015 Breaking News, Large Newsroom finalist



Nicola Clark

The New York Times

Breaking News, Large Newsroom


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About the Project

These days it seems, a news scoop lasts only as long as it takes for another journalist to tap out 140 characters on a smartphone.

Nicola Clark’s exclusive report that the pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 was locked out of the cockpit while his co-pilot apparently crashed the plane into a mountainside in France stood alone for nearly a full 24-hour news cycle.

After The Times pushed its breaking news alert on mobile apps and online, the article had as many concurrent readers as the site’s indispensable home page. And nearly all of those readers came back, repeatedly, for updates. Other news organizations online and on TV, in the United States and abroad, were linking to and citing The New York Times.

Ms. Clark’s scoop was one of a number of exclusive details reported by Times journalists on mobile, in real time, in the hours and days after the flight from Barcelona to Dȕsseldorf with 150 people on board crashed in the French Alps:

That exclusive reporting was bolstered by authoritative details from inside the plane’s cockpit and explanations about how cockpit locking systems similar to the one on the Germanwings plane work. These elements of the breaking news story went beyond annotation and developed a digital life of their own online, via search and on social media.

So many of The Times’s exclusive scoops on the Germanwings story in the hours and days after the crash were reported first on mobile. It was appropriate that half or more of our audience was on mobile devices reading, watching and sharing our journalism.

This was not the first major breaking news event we have covered with an explicit mobile-first strategy. But it was the best example of a fully integrated effort aggressively executed on phones that included well-timed push alerts, breaking news presentation optimized for iOS and Android apps, and persistent engagement on mobile-friendly social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook among the communities most affected by the news.

From the moment the Germanwings plane went down, Times journalists in New York and Europe mobilized to provide the most compelling narratives and the essential explanatory journalism.

That combination, produced in real time, brought much-needed clarity to a breaking news story that was dogged by rumors and unsubstantiated reports from multiple sources. The Times showed what happened, and why. We made sense of numerous streams of information, not all of them equally reliable, when it mattered most to readers. And we tried to put events into historical context quickly, , and make this accessible for readers.

While speed often dominates during a big breaking news story, the newsrooms of The New York Times in London, Paris and New York put a comparable premium on authority and accessibility for readers. The results show, scoop after scoop, that The Times is an indispensable real-time global news source when it matters most.