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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Saratoga Springs City Council casino vote: Reporting the news as it happens

A caller to the anonymous Sound Off line last week called it “hard to believe” that The Saratogian didn’t have results of the Tuesday, March 4 City Council casino vote in the paper on Wednesday.

Let me set the record straight.

Saratogian coverage of the meeting began Tuesday even before it was called to order. And readers could find the vote as soon as it happened, on

Granted, our print deadline precluded us from having the vote in Wednesday’s print edition, though it did feature Ed Burke’s photos of the full house in City Hall and a note directing readers to coverage online. But the results were available long before the paper hit the porch.

Throughout the meeting, city reporter Lucian McCarty “live-tweeted” what was going on. Followers of Lucian on Twitter (@SaratogianCDesk) could stay abreast of the action. But you didn’t need a Twitter account; his 95 tweets were front and center on The Saratogian website, where readers could scroll through the action as it occurred. The live feed included any tweets that included #casino518, thus adding more voices to the report.

The website also provided a link to the live audio of the meeting. When the vote took place, City Editor Charlie Kraebel immediately updated the online story. Later Tuesday night, Lucian fleshed out the story further. On Wednesday the story was updated again, and the actual resolution was published as well.

If I had my druthers, the vote would have made it to the printed page. But I don’t, and in the long run it shouldn’t matter. In today’s world, a printed paper serves readers best by advancing and exploring issues than on being the source for breaking news. For instance, the Sunday prior to the City Council meeting, the front page of the print version contained Lucian’s story about the vote that was to take place and where council members stood. The story also directed people online to find the entire transcript of the casino forum hosted in December by the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and Saratoga County Convention and Tourism Bureau.

By the time the presses roll, the news is old news — still worthy of reporting, but probably not new to anyone interested in knowing what’s going on. Every media outlet — including TV and radio stations — strive to report news as it’s happening for people to follow on their phones, tablets and computers, without regard to when their next broadcast or press run is scheduled.

Whenever I respond to a Sound Off saying the news was online, someone calls to alert me to the fact that not everyone uses a computer. I understand that, I really do. I don’t mean to criticize those readers or diminish the value of the printed newspaper. But here’s another fact: more people get their news through the Internet than through a printed newspaper. That’s where newsrooms must focus their energy to survive.


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