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Under hack attack, PBS Newshour falls back on Tumblr

pbsnewshour logoPBS suffered a hacking attack Monday that included intruders posting inaccurate information to some of its news sites. The attack affected the websites for NewsHour, Frontline and PBS. In response, PBS Newshour took to its Tumblog to publish transcripts and videos from Monday’s broadcast.

We talked with Teresa Gorman, the social media production assistant for Newshour, about how the team responded.

Lost Remote: Was there a contingency plan already in place in the event of a prolonged site outage, or did you guys respond to the attack on the fly?

Teresa: I can’t speak to the IT or PBS’ plans (or NewsHour’s IT plans really), but we hadn’t had the Tumblr plan in mind before. We’ve had it since last August (set up by @KateGardiner) and have had some experiments on there before (for example, we allowed staff to email interesting articles and posts they found about Osama Bin Laden’s death), so it seemed like a good fit at the moment.

LR: How long was it between the “uh-oh” moment of realizing the attack and when you started publishing on Tumblr?

Teresa: We were still able to post intermittently Monday, during the day, on our site (Example: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/world/jan-june11/ghana_05-30.html), though not on our Rundown Blog. Functionality basically stopped during the live broadcast, around 6:30- 6:45 p.m. ET. I wasn’t in the newsroom at the moment, so can only imagine the reaction. At that point Tumblr seemed like the best fill-in. Usually all the segments from the show are published with transcripts by 9-9:30 p.m. ET on our site — instead, we did it on Tumblr.

LR: What was the workflow like for pushing updates to Tumblr? Was everyone working on it, or was it a small group of people?

Teresa: The night crew at NewsHour is a small group — four people that night, plus me — so they did what they usually do: copied edited transcripts, wrote up headlines, edited video, and I posted each piece once they emailed all the information to me. This morning I showed my editor how to do it as well, which helped.

LR: How do you/does PBS feel the response to the attack went?

Teresa: I can’t speak to the more broad implications of that question, but personally I’m happy we were able to find a quick solution to still get our stories up for our followers and viewers. Of course, nothing in this situation is ideal, but it was a great way to keep going forward in my opinion.

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