Magazine article Nieman Reports

Fast Times: Johanna Van Eeden, NF '15, Directs a South African News Platform Built to Keep Up with the Speed of News

Magazine article Nieman Reports

Fast Times: Johanna Van Eeden, NF '15, Directs a South African News Platform Built to Keep Up with the Speed of News

Article excerpt

DECEMBER 3, 2015. WE ALL KNEW IT WAS going to be a busy day in the newsroom. The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, South Africa, was to rule on whether Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murder or not.

I remember the day Reeva Steenkamp was shot on February 14, 2013. At 8:03 a.m. this tweet from @Beeld_Nuus appeared on my BlackBerry: "Oscar Pistorius skiet sy vriendin in sy huis dood omdat hy glo dink sy is 'n inbreker" ("Oscar Pistorius shoots his girlfriend dead in his house after apparently thinking she's a burglar").

The news made international headlines, but it also created a huge shift in the culture of our newsrooms. This is what "digital first" was about. Beeld, one of Media24's three daily Afrikaans newspapers, decided to tweet the news about Steenkamp's death. It reached Beeld's 29,000 Twitter followers, was translated into English by another journalist, and went viral.

More than two years later I was standing in a corridor at Media24 in Johannesburg, listening to a news editor talk about the golden question: What do we publish online and what new angles can we look at for tomorrow's newspapers? We were prepared for Pistorius' case in the Court of Appeal, but not for the tragic death of a mother and her two children. They were killed early that morning and the story developed at a fast pace. By lunchtime, the husband and father of the deceased admitted he had killed his family.

We had a lot of balls in the air, covering the Court of Appeal and staying with the family murder. …

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