Telum Talks To... Stewart Sowman-Lund, Live Updates Editor at The Spinoff

Telum Talks To... Stewart Sowman-Lund, Live Updates Editor at The Spinoff

Can you talk us through a day in the life of a Live-Updates Editor at The Spinoff?
I start my day (from home) at about 7am - 7.30am, catching up on the top stories from all the main news outlets. The radio is on constantly as I get ready for the day. That means it's on in the shower, and when I brush my teeth. The first update goes up on the site around 8am, and then I'm plugged into the news cycle until 4pm. 

What are the key challenges of live updating news?
It's all about keeping an eye on what the big stories of the day are, along with making sure the audience isn't getting bored. My job is essentially to curate the site, taking what I think are the most important, interesting and engaging stories of the day. There are simply too many news stories published across the industry, and it's my job to read as many as possible and decide what I think a Spinoff reader would like to be informed about.

What sorts of content usually warrant live updates? 
Generally, the first story of the day is a big news lead, but throughout the day I try to incorporate a mixture. If it's a slower news day, I'll happily throw in something alternative or promote something that's running elsewhere on the site. Some Spinoff readers will probably only access the wider site through the updates, so I like to use it as a funnel to showcase the best that's available across the entire Spinoff platform. 

How does this role differ from your previous roles, reporting at Newstalk ZB and Newshub?
It's so different and I love it. Newstalk ZB was all about breaking news, which was fun. But now I am far more focused on picking the most interesting stories and angles and making sure my copy is consistently of a high quality. I'm also able to pursue a much wider range of stories. Sometimes I'll go from reporting on parliament to writing a silly piece about RuPaul's Drag Race.

When covering live updates, how do you work with PRs?
It's a balance. If a PR is sending me something entirely irrelevant to my job (i.e. a list of top hotels in Singapore) then it's not going to come close to warranting an update. But, if a PR sends me a clear news angle, provides quotes and contact info, and makes themselves available to me, that's super helpful.

What can PRs do to make your role easier?
Put themselves in my shoes. I need a news hook and not just a press release.

How does it feel to be nominated for Junior Feature Writer of the Year at the Voyager's this year?
It's both a huge honour and a massive surprise. I almost didn't enter the feature category, as I'd pinned my hopes on reporting (where I was... not nominated). I am so excited to celebrate The Spinoff's achievements on awards night. 

Do you have a favourite story you’ve covered?
I loved covering last year's election and two of my favourite pieces both happened to focus on Judith Collins.

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