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Coming Soon: Live Coverage of... D-Day???

Categories: Canada, Journalism, Politics, Technology & Science, World


The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade go ashore at Bernières-sur-mer, Normandy, France, just after 12pm local time, on June 6, 1944. (Gilbert Alexander Milne/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

Next week, hundreds of D-Day veterans, world leaders, and international royalty will come together in France to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic D-Day landings in June of 1944.

CBC News will be there to bring Canadians complete coverage of these unparalleled commemorations, just as we did in 1944 when the CBC's Matthew Halton brought Canadians compelling radio coverage from the front lines of the Normandy battles.

Even with an event 70 years in the making, we always ask ourselves how we can work differently, and how can we ensure our journalism reaches as many Canadians as possible?

To answer those questions, our news specials and online teams worked together to come up with a deceptively simple idea. On June 5 and 6, we will present a multi-media project called D-Day Live that will release key details from the D-Day battles in real time. And we are doing it on all platforms. Some will be heard in radio programs. You'll see some onscreen on CBC News Network. And all of them will exist on the Twitter feed @CBCDDayLive, and on an interactive media wall at CBCnews.ca.

So at the very moment that Mackenzie King addressed Canadians about D-Day 70 years ago, we will tweet out a link to his speech and broadcast an excerpt of it on television and radio. Think of it as breaking news from the past - using the tools of today, to tell the story of yesterday.

And we've done it using many of our own archival assets. The CBC's vaults are home to one of the country's richest collections of sights and sounds from the Second World War. This project allows us to open them up for all Canadians to experience.

A project of this scope doesn't come without its obstacles, including a very basic one: if we are live-tweeting history, what time do we use? We debated this for days - Eastern Standard Time (EST)? Central European Time (CET)? The time in Britain during the war? The time in Canada? Sure enough, wise leaders from the past helped get there when we learned that war-time UK was put on something called British Double Summer Time (BDST), which meant that the time difference between war-time France and Canada would be the same as it will be now. So in the end, we are tweeting to the moment, using local time in France today.

As we worked, we realized how much our broader coverage of the anniversary could be aligned with this project, and it helped us make decisions. If a reporter proposed a story for The National about a certain person, we'd ask, "Do you know where he was at any given time on June 5 and 6, 1944?" in the hopes that we could create yet another real-time tweet. And as our editors pieced together archival shots for the television production, archivists could narrow down their search simply on the hunt for footage that had been filmed within the scope of those fateful D-Day hours.

It all adds up to coverage a bit different than we usually do, but coverage we think you'll value a lot.
The most important traditions, of course, don't change. On June 6th, the focus of the day will remain on the incredible scenes of those D-Day veterans, returning to the beaches that they landed on 70 years ago. And just as Matthew Halton did 70 years ago, we'll be using every piece of technology available to us to make sure we bring the story home for you.

Twitter: @CBCDDayLive

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