How KERA is Using Live Blogging Techniques to Cover Ebola in Dallas

Oct 17, 2014


A screenshot of KERA's live-blog of Ebola in Dallas coverage on October 14. Pictured is Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse infected with the Ebola virus.

The NPR Scoop newsletter recently summarized the many ways NPR is covering Ebola, including work with station journalists and newsrooms. KERA in particular has been all over the story on-air and online since the first patient to be diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. showed up in Dallas.

One ongoing aspect of their coverage is a series of live blogs. The station has been live blogging almost every day since September 30, including weekends, KERA digital news editor Eric Aasen told me in an email. These daily live blogs have been among KERA's top-read stories every day, Aasen said.

“A live blog works best with this type of fluid story – there are so many developments each day. It would be impossible to create individual posts for each development," Aasen said. "The daily blog turns into a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Ebola in Dallas that day. Someone who might be checking in once will get a good sense of what’s been happening that day. And someone who checks in several times will be able to get the latest news.”

Updates are concise so they are easy to digest, and adding photos, and embedding Tweets and YouTube videos makes the live blog flow, Aasen said.

The blog is updated every 30 minutes to one hour, and someone is on call to post updates early in the morning or late at night if news breaks. The headline is changed every few hours to keep it fresh. (Tip: If you've changed your headline on a post, you can make sure it updates when it is shared on Facebook by running a post through the debugger tool.)

If there's a big development or there's something that KERA knows will be shared a lot, they'll put it in a separate post. For example a video of a nurse with Ebola talking from her hospital room, a profile of Thomas Eric Duncan, and an Ebola in Dallas timeline, were all were mentioned in live blogs, but were also broken into their own posts.

This type of coverage isn't a one-person job, especially if the story goes on as long as it has, Aasen said. "It’s been a newsroom-wide effort, with everyone contributing updates and ideas."

Want more information on live blogging? Check out these links: