During a Weather Event


We Were Warned

We were warned it would be a storm that would devastate the Northeastern coast of the United States.  News stations broadcasting in my hometown of York, Pennsylvania have been going strong all-day-long, providing warnings, shelter information, and updates on the path of the storm.  As I sit writing this post, it is almost midnight on October 29th and the eye of what is now Tropical Storm Sandy is in the skies above my home.  Sheets of rain are pounding my windows and the wind sounds like it is testing every brick, shingle and sheet of siding on my house.

“Watching News” in a Whole New Way

As I type, I find myself distracted by the dripping sound coming from my kitchen.  We have buckets sitting to collect water that has found its way into our home, thanks to Sandy.  Besides trying to keep my house dry, I am watching the news to stay informed.  Tonight however, I am watching the news in a way I never have before.  For one, I’m not in the anchor seat providing hours upon hours of continuous coverage.   I also find myself  viewing the news through my mobile phone.

Power Outages no Match for Social Media Coverage

FOX43 was among the stations that told viewers ahead of the storm, how they could follow coverage, without power, thanks to social media. My family has DirectTV and tonight, Sandy has knocked out our local channels.  So here I sit, “watching the news” through social media.  With my interest in social media and the news, this weather event is providing the perfect study.


Sources by the Thousands

Journalists crowdsource to generate content for their viewers during times like these.  I find myself, a viewer, crowd-sourcing to find the content I want to see.   I am following all the major news networks and local reporters and anchors via twitter and Facebook, and collectively, I am getting a really good idea of what is going on, minute-by-minute.  Not to take away from any news organization which is delivering the content as they get it, but having the ability to see tweets from a variety of sources, all at the same time, is hugely beneficial.

What I Want, When I Want it

While following Sandy through social media, not only do we all get play-by-plays on breaking events, but also the provided links, which provide pictures and videos that help tell the story.  The images coming in tonight, and I would assume in the days to come, are incredible.

Years ago, news reporters would be sent out to cover flooding.  Often times, by the time we would get to the location of the flooding, the water subsided.  Today, with social media, we are seeing flooding at the height of the storm.  Social media is most definitely providing better coverage of major events like this. It truly does seems to be the quickest way to get the updates I want, when I want them.


Sources by the Thousands

It is clear, people turn to social media during major news events, not just to get updates from others, but to post their stories, pictures, and videos from their community.  Viewer content has become a vital element in delivering the news for a story of this magnitude, and the viewers are only one element in this social media equation.  Government organizations, power companies, The American Red Cross, and utility companies are just the few examples of the “other elements” telling the story through social media.

Reporters who are spread out all over the world are finding the world a much smaller place through social media.  Content sharing through re-tweets is another element in this equation.  Working journalists who have worked through this transition into the “social world” are beginning to see, over-and-over again, the place social media has in a newsroom.

Evan Forrester, the Assistant News Director and Anchor at FOX43 in Harrisburg, PA says, “We were on for 30 straight hours.  We used social media if FEMA or PEMA posted something on their twitter accounts, so we were able to get that information out to the viewers.  So it was a two-way street.  While we were showing the Governor’s press conference live, I was sending tweets out on power outages…when power might be restored…how many emergency centers were open..so having all those extra sources out there helps us to tell a bigger story.”

“We were told to get stuff as it’s happening.  We were using social media to find out where these things were happening.  We found a family being rescued by boat through social media, adds FOX43 multi-media journalist, Jessica Reyes.

Viewer participation

Live chats and live blogs are also up and running through this storm.  It’s another way the media is engaging its audience to participate in the coverage.  Tonight, I’m seeing some affiliates posting road closures, popular Sandy hashtags for twitter, 9-1-1 incident reports, and power outages.  There are also some good chats going on between people within a community.


Risking Too Much to Tweet a Picture?

Viewer participation in news coverage has become such a big phenomenon, it warranted a statement from Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett.  Before Sandy arrived, Gov. Corbett strongly urged us, that as we are riding out the storm, we should not put ourselves in harms way to take pictures and videos for the news.

It’s a slippery slope.  News organizations know people are taking pictures and videos, so they do ask them to share those pictures.  After receiving some sharp criticism during Tropical Storm Lee coverage, the media has toned down the request for pictures.  While they all still ask, they are certain to make it very clear that no one should put themselves into harms way to get the pictures for the newscast.



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