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Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Monday, 8 August 2011 12:33 UK

BBC experts on writing live event pages

An example of a BBC Sport website football text commentary
Football text commentaries have become a staple of the BBC Sport website

One way of covering big events on the internet is with a page of live updates - and they can be the perfect way to cover everything that's going on in your school on News Day on 24 March.

The BBC website uses them regularly for the latest sporting updates, and live event pages are just as suitable for news events. On News Day, School Report uses one to round up what's going on around the UK and overseas at schools participating in the project.

Jonathan Stevenson is a former BBC Sport football text commentators, covering Premier League, FA Cup and international action, including the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

Victoria King has written live event pages for BBC News on a wide variety of topics, including the papal visit, the political party conferences and the 2010 election night.

So if you want to your school to use a live event page, here are Sam and Victoria's top tips for running a live event page that keeps your audience coming back for more!


1. Prepare as much as possible. A lot of sporting action is fast and furious, so you need to be as well prepared as you can. A comprehensive knowledge of what you're covering is a good start, and it's useful to set aside some time before you begin so you're aware of all the latest issues, news and statistics. Make a basic mistake and people aren't slow to let you know!

2. Be yourself. There are so many live pages on the internet, and everyone has their own style. Don't try to imitate anyone else's, no matter how good you think they are. If you feel comfortable trying to be funny, do it; if not, don't bother. Be yourself, and tell it as you see it.

A simple mobile phone can be the most effective way of quickly reporting the key information when you're out and about. Here are a few pointers:
- keep it brief and to the point: it's not the place for a long essay

- ensure it's accurate and doesn't need too much deciphering of 'text-speak'

- check the recipient knows who is sending the information

3. Get people involved. No-one wants to read one person for hours on end, so user-generated content is crucial. Live texts shouldn't be a one-way street: readers should always feel they can get involved, and their input - perhaps by email - can help make the commentary more interesting. And don't be put off by negative comments: you'll never keep absolutely everyone happy!

4. Don't delay with the key info. You're broadcasting live, and the people reading will want the latest info as soon as possible. Goals, red cards, penalties etc - a short, snappy line will do, with more detail in the next entry. Also, try to reflect the situation of the game in your commentary. If it's injury-time and one team is desperately holding on, very short entries every 30 seconds are a great way to build up the tension.

5. Don't be afraid to delegate. Some of the best live texts are where lots of people are feeding in, and you are able to convey a sense of drama and excitement about what is going on. Give them a flavour of the things you want them to tell you, and it will all come together.

6. Have fun! You're watching live sport and you're telling people what is going on. There can't be many jobs more fun than that, surely?!


1. Keep the entries short and snappy. If there's a good quote, get it at the beginning so it's the first thing people read - it will help draw them in. In quieter times, entries a couple of sentences long are fine, but when there's something actually going on - like an important speech - the faster and shorter the better. It's much more important to keep the information flowing than worrying about it being finely crafted prose!

Give people a sense of the excitement and work going on in your school
Supply a lot of information in an easy-to-follow format
Highly versatile - you can write as much or as little as needed
Works for almost any 'rolling' event: sport, election nights, News Days etc

2. Try to keep it entertaining. Obviously some things aren't (and shouldn't be!) light-hearted but you can definitely sneak in a bit of personality and humour. We occasionally write entries in the first person because there is a byline on the story and readers are aware they're following the work of an individual journalist.

More straightforward news/quotes entries can be livened up with some more colourful ones - politicians' tie choices are a favourite, but things like the music used at party conferences (which is always meant to reflect the party's message) and funny/quirky incidents help to keep the page interesting.

3. Don't assume your audience have read the whole page. Work on the basis that they've just arrived at the page and need to understand straight away what's going on. So don't refer to something vaguely that you explained several hours ago.

4. Try to put things in context. When a politician says something, try to think about how that fits with other things they've said before on the subject - or that other people in the party or their opponents have said.

An example of a BBC News live event page
BBC News use the pages to cover major events

Recently, for example, the Chancellor George Osborne praised capitalism in his conference speech - but only a couple of weeks ago Vince Cable, his cabinet colleague, attacked it. It all adds to the audience's understanding of the issue.

5. Try to get the broadest range of views into the page as possible. For politics, it's politicians of all parties, including the smaller ones if you can get them, newspaper commentators, bloggers, ordinary people: whoever has interesting views that you think are worth highlighting. We hunt around newspaper websites and other blogs, listen to TV and radio (both BBC and other outlets), take email comments from the public and so on.

6. Link to other material. We link out from entries to material both inside and outside the BBC. Inside, it could be a good feature or analysis piece, especially if it's by a well-known and trusted person like Nick Robinson or Robert Peston. Outside, it could be an article or blog, or a detailed source of information - say a report that's been published in full online.

Running a 'live events' page
11 Feb 10 |  Teachers' resources


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