Keeping your audience tuned in when your news website goes dark

by جيف سوندرمان
Oct 30, 2018 in Digital Journalism

When the American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website came under attack by hackers on May 30, the Newshour staff took to publishing its news transcripts and videos to Tumblr instead. A month earlier, a TV station in Tallahassee, Fla., posted videos and news on Facebook when technical difficulties disrupted its 11 p.m. newscast.

With so many publishing platforms and social networks available, there’s no reason for a news organization to go dark when its website is down. But it must have a good plan in advance.

10 steps to take before an outage

  1. Decide what services you will use. What platforms will do the best job of carrying your news content? What services do you already use to reach people? What tools are your staff already skilled at using?

Your main options are:

•A hosted blogging platform (, Tumblr, Posterous), where you can post articles and embed content.

•Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), which are less flexible and comprehensive than blogs but make it easier to push information directly to your followers and help it spread to the largest audience.

If you are a TV station or otherwise stream video, perhaps you can use a service like Ustream.

You’ll likely want a combination of these options — a fully capable blog site combined with strong social media outreach.

  1. Assign individual responsibility and authority. Who decides whether to switch to the backup publishing methods — the managing editor, the Web editor? Who’s responsible for activating them? What is the new workflow for reporters and editors? As you nail down the overall plan, each person needs to know his role in executing it.

  2. Set up the sites and accounts in advance, if they’re not already ones you use every day. By the time an outage strikes, it’s too late; your tech staff will be putting its full energy into trying to resolve the current outage and won’t be able to help much. And the goal is to eliminate any downtime, which means your backups have to be ready to launch instantly.

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This article first appeared on Poynter Online, IJNet’s partner and the website of the Poynter Institute, a school serving journalism and democracy for more than 35 years. Poynter offers news and training that fits any schedule, with individual coaching, in-person seminars, online courses, Webinars and more. The complete article is translated in full into IJNet’s six other languages with permission from Media Helping Media.