Clean code, blogs makes breaking news easy

I’m sure many of you have had a very long day and night with the [Atlanta courthouse shooting](, but I wanted to take a minute to write down my thoughts while they were fresh.

###Clean code makes design changes easy

Obviously the [AJC]( had to make some fairly rapid changes to our home page to accomodate the breaking news. We had recently undergone a redesign that brought the content well up to spec with a [transitional layout]( — meaning we used some very light tables for structure and relied on CSS for the rest.

When the scope of the story became apparent I was called in to help redesign the homepage, while others worked to rip out some of the heavier parts to reduce page weight.

I was able to turn our page around in about 5 minutes — sure I had to do some inline styles to cover some needs that weren’t in our stylesheets, but I firmly believe we couldn’t have turned the page around so quickly without [Web standards](

And it’s not just a quick turnaround — because the markup remained relatively the same, while the CSS changed, our producers had no problems picking up the new page and churning out some great coverage.

After things calmed down some, I was able to go back and yank out our inline styles and turn them into classes in our main stylesheet, and as the day went on and our needs changed, I could quickly add new classes/styles to meet our producers needs.

###Blogs are great for breaking news

After our online group was able to get print side to start filing bursts to us, I quickly set up a [breaking news blog](

Our producers were able to post bursts filed by our print staff, and to file reports picked up from TV and the wires to the blog quickly and easily.

[Erica](, who is probably a biased source, said that the blog was the best part of the coverage. She was stuck at her school, in lockdown, without a TV, but she could turn to the blog and quickly get the latest — because it was in chronological order.

I may be speaking out of turn, but I think this is the best interface to cover a rolling, breaking story like this. By the end of the day, as our “10,000 foot view” stories started to roll in, we could provide our users the ‘whole story’, at least to that point in the night. But during the day, as the story develops, users who quickly want to find out what’s changed since they last checked in can get it quickly from the blog.

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
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