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LNP|LancasterOnline builds trust, engages new audiences with breaking news reporters

By Alexandra Henry

LNP Media Group

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA

Transparency and trust in the media are more important than ever. Even local news outlets have felt the consequences of the attacks on the media that have taken place in the last few years.

To help overcome the growing distrust, Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based LNP|Lancaster Online shifted the roles of breaking news reporters on the editorial staff, moving them to a digital-first role.

This change helped the local newspaper provide quality live coverage of news events as they happen, and also helped grow its social media presence, converted casual readers to paid subscribers, reinforced the value of the newspaper’s Web site as a complement to the print edition, and elevated the local newspaper as a leading source of breaking news in the area.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, allowing readers to see our breaking news team report on news events has helped provide transparency about the process journalists use to report the news.

“The addition of a breaking news reporter to our digital-first team has changed the way our news stories are first presented to our audience,” said Stephanie Sadowski, managing editor of LNP|LancasterOnline.  “The story starts live at the scene, reported in real-time first. When the live event ends, then it’s written up and reported in the next print edition of the paper. It’s a visual-first format using photographs and video to tell the story, which is a lot different than traditional newspaper reporting.”

Going live on Facebook

The LNP|LancasterOnline digital team uses Facebook Live, which it can embed on, to broadcast from the scene. This format allows a wider audience; people can watch on Facebook as well as online at the newspaper’s Web site. It has proven to be an effective and simple tool for breaking news situations.

The LNP|LancasterOnline digital team uses Facebook Live for breaking news coverage and now is able to reach a broader audience.
The LNP|LancasterOnline digital team uses Facebook Live for breaking news coverage and now is able to reach a broader audience.

“Our reporters aren’t bogged down by big equipment or a lot of preparation or set-up time,” said Claudia Esbenshade, social media manager for LNP|LancasterOnline. “Our focus can stay on getting to the scene and making sure we’re able to interview people that can add to our coverage.”

Esbenshade said that since adding the breaking news reporters to the team, many times LNP|LancasterOnline has beaten local TV stations in reporting breaking news. Even though TV stations may be on the scene alongside the LNP team, they require more setup: They record the news, then edit the story, then publish it later during their news broadcast.

Using Facebook Live has created more opportunities for Facebook users to see the live broadcasts, as well as other news stories, shared to the account. Sharing these stories has resulted in an increase of followers for the LNP|LancasterOnline Facebook account and has also helped convert casual viewers to paid subscribers.

In 2020, LancasterOnline received nearly 3 million page views from Facebook and approximately 6% of new subscribers were attributed to social media.

Enhancing coverage

The addition of breaking news journalists has enhanced our coverage of local breaking news stories, giving readers more reasons to access the digital product. Coverage is live from the scene and delivers the story faster than the traditional print product.

“There are so many ways our print subscribers can consume the news that we provide, and each of our products has a specific audience,” Sadowski said. “One thing we’ve tried to drive home to our readers is that our digital product, LancasterOnline, is the perfect complement to our print product, LNP.”

LNP|LancasterOnline can update the story online as details emerge and the story develops over hours, days, months, and even years. It can publish full-coverage collections on each story, which can include photos, videos, news articles, a timeline of events, infographics, and more.

For example, in September 2020, the City of Lancaster Police Department was involved in the fatal shooting of a city resident. A night of protests erupted in the city, which LNP|LancasterOnline’s breaking news reporters covered live from the scene of the shooting throughout the night. The investigation resulting from the incident is ongoing, the latest occurring in mid-February 2021, when the victim’s mother filed a wrongful death suit against Lancaster city police, Lancaster city, and Lancaster County. 

Information and reporting on this story can be found in a collection on LancasterOnline. The collection puts all of the information about the story in one place online, which is valuable whether a person is reading about a story for the first time or trying to catch up with the latest information. 

The details included in the collections online are printed in the newspaper daily as well. Access to the digital product is provided to print subscribers as part of their subscription.

Transparency on display

Transparency and editorial integrity are on full display when LNP|LancasterOnline’s journalists report live from the scene of breaking news. The value of the audience seeing how the news develops and the role of the journalist at the scene, watching the news develop, and reporting on it as it happens has helped rebuild the integrity and status of the media in the wake of repeated attacks over the last several years.

“It’s important, especially now, for our audience to understand our coverage, to know the difference between news stories and opinions, to understand the value that a local news organisation has on the community it serves,” Sadowski said. “This is one way we can show our audience exactly what we do and how we do it. It’s the transparency they need, and we’re happy to provide it.”

About Alexandra Henry

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