@josh_wingrove: “gunfire in parliament”
With that tweet, Globe and Mail reporter Josh Wingrove turned on his phone’s video camera and walked steadily toward the sound of gunfire. Within minutes after being published, his video of the final shootout on Parliament Hill became the iconic image of the attack on Ottawa, used by news organizations across Canada and around the world. The video has now been viewed by more than 4.5 million people.
As those bullets were flying in the Parliament Buildings and as a soldier lay dying at the nearby National War Memorial as a result of a shooting by the same gunman, a global audience turned to The Globe’s web, mobile and video platforms for breaking news. This brazen assault on the seat of Canada’s national government would be the equivalent of a gunman firing shots within the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
In Toronto, a news editor spots Josh’s message and shouts: “Everybody wake up! There’s shots fired in Parliament!” Over the next 24 hours — and in the days that followed — the newsroom mobilized to cover the attack on Canada’s capital using text, mobile, video, photography, social media and interactive graphics.
Writing off that single tweet, our Live News desk published a one-line breaking news bulletin to The Globe’s homepage. As the story evolved, we decided on a non-traditional structure that focussed on a bulleted list of key facts and highly structured briefs. This gave the readers an at-a-glance update on the latest news and allowed them to dive deeper into the story as more facts emerged. Nearly 3 million people looked to this continuously updated breaking story during the course of the day. It was also the biggest day ever for the Globe’s iPhone app — driven by an alert strategy that aimed to keep Canadians abreast of each important development as the story unfolded.
Our homepage team quickly realized that none of our templated designs gave us the flexibility we needed to cover an event of this size. Working with a front-end developer and a designer, within an hour we were able to craft a custom top to our homepage that would both convey the magnitude of the story as well as allow us to gather in one place all the coverage that would consume the newsroom for the next 24 hours.
There were a dozen people in The Globe’s Ottawa bureau at the time of the shooting. Within minutes, half of them ran from the building in one of two directions – toward the war memorial, where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed, or toward Parliament, where Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was killed. Reporters ran toward danger, not knowing whether there was more than one shooter – but with the knowledge that Ottawa would soon be locked down and it was essential to be on the streets.
The social media team used this list and other Twitter searches to feed live updates through the newsroom, and to our website and mobile platforms. They were restrained and precise in providing news to our readers — delivering much-needed facts amid an atmosphere of fear and rumour. For example, even as a government official tweeted that the soldier had died, we waited for independent confirmation from two sources before sending our own breaking news update.
Meanwhile, our visual teams provided extra depth to our coverage through a series of videos, a new photo gallery template and an interactive map that traced the killer’s final route.
Mr. Wingrove’s chilling footage is the embodiment of modern-day journalism. In the face of danger, he walked bravely toward it – capturing the only true account of what happened in the final moments of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack on Canada’s Parliament.