Live updates in 2020 and 2023 (Image: Tina Tiller)
Live updates in 2020 and 2023 (Image: Tina Tiller)

MediaDecember 8, 2023

Farewell, live updates: Why we’re shifting our approach to daily news

Live updates in 2020 and 2023 (Image: Tina Tiller)
Live updates in 2020 and 2023 (Image: Tina Tiller)

The Spinoff’s live updates editor reflects on three-and-a-half years in the role, and looks forward to what’s next.

Today marks the final day of live updates on The Spinoff. It’s a big day for me given I have been editing the live updates since mid-2020, but it’s also a big day for The Spinoff considering live updates have been a permanent fixture on the site for nearly four years.

The Spinoff’s live updates were born out of both the influx of news about the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, and the desire from readers to actually take onboard such an influx. I wasn’t there at the very beginning, but I was an avid reader. Working in the news for another outlet at the start of the pandemic, I understood the vision: to make the overwhelming amount of content being flung at us on a daily basis digestible, concise, interesting and, where appropriate, a little bit personalised and fun. 

I was brought onboard shortly after the first nationwide lockdown in 2020. It was an induction by fire, given I arrived at The Spinoff offices for the first time on the morning that Todd Muller suddenly resigned as National Party leader and Judith Collins replaced him. A couple of days later, a National MP was embroiled in a a scandal. While Covid-19 was the focus for much of my tenure as live updates editor, my first day proved that people had an appetite for our particular way of reporting the news on a range of subjects.

Over the past 1,200 or so days, we’ve gone through a lot. The country moved through several more lockdowns, changes in alert levels, a traffic light system nobody seemed to understand, natural disasters, a terrorist attack, two general elections (with countless dogs at polling booths) and local elections. There were hundreds of 1pm press conference, and dozens of others. I’ve led our live updates coverage from around the country, in The Spinoff’s press gallery office at parliament, among the anti-lockdown protests outside it, in Australia and Papua New Guinea with the prime minister. Pretty much every Spinoff writer since 2020 has made a guest appearance in the live updates, along with a range of external contributors.

So why close them down now? In short, the daily need for live updates isn’t as great as when there were 1pm announcements that affected the entire country. The world may remain a confusing place, but things are getting back to… a kind of normal. And with that comes the shift to more standalone reporting and features for our small team. 

But that’s not to say you won’t be able to find out the latest news on The Spinoff going forward, because you absolutely will. There’s The Bulletin, of course, for your morning news hit, and we have our new Wellington editor Joel MacManus keeping a watchful eye over the capital. I’ll be helping lead the expansion of individualised live blogs that we can switch on as soon as the need arises. We’ve used them recently to help cover events like the opening of parliament, Christopher Luxon’s first post-cabinet press conference and a day of council meetings. And will use them in future when nationally-significant news breaks.

Stanley Neville watches a 1pm briefing

But unlike live updates, which were visible on the site every single day, we’ll only be switching on live blogs when we feel there is a need for you, as the reader, to be constantly kept up to date (and occasionally, when we just think it might be a bit of fun). 

It means we will remain selective about what news content needs to be on our site, just like we always have been with live updates. We’ll be taking the best parts of live updates – the immediacy, the accuracy, the consistency and the curation – but being more judicious about when it is used. 

For me, this brings with it exciting new challenges. I’ll also be stepping into the new role of reporter, the first time The Spinoff has had a dedicated news and current affairs writer, and providing more long form reporting on the front page of the site (you may already have noticed a bit more of me popping up away from live updates).

So if you have a story to tell, or a tip to pass on – The Spinoff remains devoted to investigating it for you. You can reach me here. I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for caring about the news as much as I do.

Keep going!