News SyCo meets in Brussels in the wake of terror attacks

Published on Wednesday 20 April 2016 at 12:19

More than 15 RTL Group senior news executives held a News Synergy Committee (SyCo) meeting in Brussels from 14 to 15 April 2016.

In the wake of the Brussels attacks the participants discussed best practice in responding to breaking news situations, especially those that happen in their own backyard. Laurent Haulotte, Head of News at RTL Belgium, gave a first-hand testimony: “Although we knew, especially since what happened in Paris last year, that there was a risk of such horror occurring in Brussels, it’s a very strange situation to organise coverage of terror attacks in your hometown. It’s then even harder to separate your personal emotions and thoughts and the need to react professionally. On 22 March 2016, RTL Info provided 15 hours of live coverage. 55 hours over 10 days if you take the events of the days before and after into account. Despite the fact that we are not organised as a news channel, we are used to going on air very quickly and for long periods with important news. It’s part of the success of RTL in Belgium (a country that does not have any news channels).

Speaking about the breaking news experience, he added: “All this breaking news coverage gave us experience – human, editorial and technical and in reacting quickly. I think that this experience was very helpful in these dramatic circumstances. Once again, I was very impressed by the reaction of everyone in the newsroom: their willingness, maturity, professionalism, accuracy and empathy. Most of all that is what I will remember.”

The meeting also focused on changing viewers’ habits that affect the way news is produced and distributed. Andrew Hawken, Director of Digital and Product for Sky News in the United Kingdom shared his views and experience with the Group, discussing digital and broadcast strategy. RTL Group’s news executives also discussed their own initiatives: new broadcast formats, new digital products and changes to the news gathering process.