By Gregory Bruno | February 27, 2023
Real-Time Coverage of Northern Ireland’s Elections with Live Blog
How Sourcefabric’s professional live blogging platform helped The Irish News punch above its weight
When The Irish News set out to cover Northern Ireland’s 2022 Assembly elections, it wanted to bring readers real-time coverage of the ballot as it unfolded. Would DUP’s Gary Middleton hang on to his seat in Foyle? Was this the end of the road for Belfast North’s Nichola Mallon? How would the Alliance Party fare?
But with only three staffers on its digital team, The Irish News needed a live blogging tool that was flexible, fast, and scalable. Editors turned to Live Blog for help.
“We knew that covering elections in 18 constituencies, with the possibility of vote counting going into a third day, was going to be difficult for such a small team,” said Maeve Connolly, the newspaper’s deputy digital editor. “Live Blog allowed us to provide content quickly and in real-time. What we were able to produce with this tool was very impressive.”
Last year, Live Blog developers created a feature called “output channels,” which makes it possible to manage sub-blogs from a main parent blog.
The Irish News had used blogging software for past news coverage, but not Live Blog. Most recently they’d opted for an even more basic route – creating an article in their CMS and treating it like a live blog by manually typing a timestamp as they wrote.
This meant that readers needed to pick through an endless scroll of content to follow the election action.
“It was a single post with a timestamp that couldn’t be surfaced easily,” Connolly said.
The Assembly elections in 2022 were an entirely different user experience.
Before Election Day, editors created tags in Live Blog for every constituency – Northern Ireland has 18 voting districts, and five assembly members from each are elected to fill the 90-seat chamber.
They then created 18 output channels. These output channels function as separate blog pages with unique embed codes and URLs that can be edited from the main blog.
As journalists at the counting centers fed content to the newsroom, the digital team uploaded the news items, tagged it, and hit publish. Live Blog did the rest.
To give their coverage extra visual heft, the paper’s digital editors took advantage of Live Blog’s customization tools and color palettes, and then embedded their blogs onto pre-built pages with maps, graphics, and voting statistics.
“What Live Blog allowed us to do was present content in a much nicer fashion than before,” Connolly said. “It was stylistically and functionally so much better than what we were able to do previously.”
In the future, Connolly says she’d like to see Live Blog integrated into more of the newspaper’s coverage – from breaking news to the more mundane aspects of government policymaking, like committee hearings.
One thing is for certain, Connolly said: When voters go to the polls again this May for council elections, “Live Blog will be there.”
A powerful live blogging platform is a must for covering elections of all sizes (as well as other live events). Try out Live Blog from Sourcefabric for seven days free, no strings attached. Get your trial version here.