Santorum, and fast

I’ll go ahead and admit it here: I’ve been pretty excited this week about Rick Santorum.

That’s not necessarily a political endorsement, though. Rather, it’s a brief and admittedly unsolicited cheer for The Evening Sun’s online coverage of a visit by the GOP presidential hopeful to Gettysburg a few days ago.

In particular, there was a small group left here during Santorum’s Tuesday night visit tasked with reporting on the event. And updating our website as things developed. And passing along information through social media. Oh, and putting together a newspaper.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not going to tell you just how perfectly everything came together. There are always things to improve on.

But it’s worth taking a minute here to talk about what we did, and why we did it.

By way of background, on Tuesday afternoon we had reporters Tim Prudente and Jackie Palochko ready to go to Gettysburg, to talk to both supporters at the Gettysburg Hotel, and protesters outside picketing.

Staff photographer Brett Berwager was also to roam around, looking for images that captured the evening.

We had mixed reports going into the night of just what Santorum was going to do, and when he might appear. We heard 8 p.m., then 9. Then maybe midnight. Less than ideal, for planning a print story.

One picture of Santorum Brett filed Tuesday night. If you notice the angle of the shot, and you know Brett, you'd realize it's his picture without me having to tell you. Photo rule: When there's crush of press, send the tall guy.

So here’s what we did.

Tim and Jackie were in Gettysburg early, talking to people and tweeting back what they were seeing.

“In #Gettysburg. Just saw my first protester. ‘Don’t accept right wing intrusion into personal lives,’ sign reads. #Santorum” Jackie wrote on Twitter around 6:30.

And we were off.

Quickly enough, tweets from both reporters were streaming in — dozens over the course of the night — as well as a few shots of the crowd, sent back from Brett’s phone. We used some of those pictures to create Facebook posts as the evening moved along, including the tweets there, too, by way of explanation.

Those social media updates were also compiled into a story and posted, along with Brett’s photos, on The Evening Sun’s website. That story was updated a half-dozen times over the course of the night, as things developed.

Eventually, around 9:30, Santorum took the stage in Gettysburg, and we tweeted through that as well, and after. And stories were quickly filed — one from Jackie, and one from Tim sitting in a quiet corner of the still-bustling borough, tapping away on an iPad.

The web was soon updated with those stories and new art.

And we even managed to make a print newspaper for the next day, somewhere along the way.

Now that’s a long explanation of event coverage. Maybe too long, for folks not that interested to begin with in how such things are done.

Certainly there are those who couldn’t care less about Santorum, or his trip to Gettysburg, let alone what we were busying ourselves with here as it was happening.

In fact, we got one Facebook post, mixed in with a few dozen from readers talking politics, asking why we even bother. He said: Why would I read this, when I can get the same thing from the AP or some other national source?

A couple of reasons, actually.

First, a focus on local news. Did you know during the build-up to the event around 7 p.m. or so, while hundreds were sardined into Lincoln Square, an automatic fire alarm was triggered at the David Wills House downtown?

Probably not, if you were watching the national news crawl across your computer screen.

Second, local knowledge. When that fire call came across the scanner, one reporter, who knew right where the historic building is located, was there within two minutes. She also knew the fire chief, who when found explained it was just a localized power outage. No danger.

And in this case no story.

But if you were following us online, you knew about the fire call as it happened. And you knew of the resolution, a few minutes later.

That might not seem like a lot, especially compared to national coverage of a national political figure. But I’d submit we held our own there, too, relative to the big boys.

And I also look at the whole thing as a step forward for the Digital First initiative we’ve been told to push for. Think about this: On Tuesday night, readers likely had access to more information on a local event, in more formats, faster than ever before.

Maybe you don’t like Rick Santorum, and maybe you didn’t care he was in Gettysburg this week. Maybe you didn’t even know we did all that on Tuesday night, and that’s just fine.

But next time, it just might be something you are interested in.

So we’ll try to fix any mistakes, and get faster, and bring you all the news we can across each of the mentioned platforms as we get it.

That’s just the way we’re wired — even when we’re wireless.

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