Skip to content

Pitt News Editor Speaks About G-20 Summit Coverage, New Media Success

September 28, 2009

The recently-concluded G-20 summit in Pittsburgh featured a slew of international titans enjoying their moment on the world’s stage. Obama. Medvedev. Merkel. Sarkozy. And Singer?! Pitt News editor in chief Drew Singer’s academic credentials are certainly aligned with the event.  He is a political science major and an administration of justice minor.  Yet, Singer’s part in the historic get-together was not borne of politics or justice, but journalism.

As editor in chief of The Pitt News, Singer led a crackerjack team of student editors, reporters, videographers, photographers, bloggers, and tweeters whose aim was simple: to cover G-20, 360.  As Singer says, “No other news organization in the world was providing as thorough and expedient description of things as they happened than we were.”

Student journalists have long risen to the challenge of covering breaking news of international heft alongside the professional press (exemplified in recent weeks by the exemplary Yale Daily News reporting on the killing of graduate student Annie Le). The Pitt News has been the latest, greatest contributor to this student press legacy with its 360-degree coverage of the G-20 summit held in its hometown.  In an exclusive Q&A with College Media Beat, Singer shares the challenges and successes of covering such a momentous happening, along with providing a glimpse of the new media awesomeness that helped TPN along the way.

What went into planning for the G-20 coverage?

Planning our G-20 coverage took months. We had to request press passes a long time ago, and deciding how many credentials to request, as well as which reporters we should request them for, took a lot of strategic planning. While we wanted to give our reporters the experience of covering the actual G-20, the main goal of our coverage was to not cover the Summit itself, but rather its impact on our community.  We deployed reporters, photographers and videographers across town, while other editors remained in the office to receive reports and move our people around town as necessary. We also reviewed First Amendment law, the proper protocol for interacting with the police during demonstrations as well as general safety practices if a demonstration turned violent.  No one on our staff was allowed to cover any of the G-20 without going through this review.

What did Pitt News provide as a student or hometown outlet that other press could not match?

Some of the most intense interactions between demonstrators and police occurred on Pitt’s campus, which gave us a huge home field advantage over all other outlets. I’m under the impression that we had more reporters and photographers on the ground than any other news organization Thursday and Friday nights. Because of this, our knowledge of campus and our strategy of having reporters regularly updating editors in the office, we were able to give a play-by-play of everything happening throughout our campus on our website and our Twitter page. No other news organization in the world was providing as thorough and expedient description of things as they happened than we were. We saw our Web traffic increase by about tenfold during those two nights of coverage.

What was the new media plan of attack for TPN’s G-20 coverage?

Like all breaking news, we’re very active on our Twitter page. Last night, I also did a “Cover it Live” live blog during some demonstrations on campus. Not only was it a way for us to break news on our site (in addition to our off-site Twitter page), but I was able to answer a lot of questions readers had, as well as let them share comments on things that have happened. We also had people with Flip Recorders and other video recording devices on the streets, so we’ve released and will continue to release footage recapping everything that happened.  We’ve been getting thousands and thousands of visitors to our photo blog, which has tons of incredible images from the past few nights. You also have to see the video packages we’ve put up so far.   You can also visit for a compilation of everything we’ve done to cover the G-20, including our multimedia features.

What was the toughest part of covering the event?

Covering an event of this nature brings with it an element of danger. Our reporters were mixed in with the demonstrators and other spectators. While that let us capture some incredible stories and pictures, our reporters were exposed to the same dangers of demonstrator-police interaction that everyone else on the ground faced.

A memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

Some media outlets reported that a lot of the damages done were committed by students. While we don’t know for sure who these people are (they were wearing masks), it’s likely that they were from out of town. We believe this because the people who got violent seemed to be from a group that often got lost while navigating around town. Following these demonstrators as they tried to find their way was interesting, to say the least.

What is your role as top editor when an event like this happens in your coverage area?

I trust our reporters, photographers and videographers on the ground to remember their training and make safe decisions. My role was to provide that training and safety tips prior to the events. Once they began, my role was primarily to stay in the office and make sure we were reporting accurate information as efficiently as possible. As reporters called into the office to report what was happening around them, I also helped other editors move our people around toward the happenings that most needed coverage.

What advice do you have for j-students seeking to tackle a similarly enormous news event?

Make sure you know all relevant laws and the protocol for interacting with police during a demonstration. The Student Press Law Centerand the American Civil Liberties Union both let us speak with their lawyers as we did our research. Also, our generation has a better understanding of Web 2.0 than older generations. Use this advantage to provide something to readers that your local paper cannot do as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: