Disaster Stories

The past weekend was fascinating for weather nerds not directly in the path of hurricane Irene. I enjoyed watching how the various news outlets covered the big story of the weekend, especially all the new toys that news divisions can deploy in situations like this.

I saw interesting live shots sent via cell phone. Tours of flooded neighborhoods from a moving truck. Reporters at one live shot having conversations with reporters at other live shots. Lots of newsgathering techniques that were not options a few years ago.

But I could see the times when the channels were in love with how they were delivering the news, but paying less attention to what they were saying. When the meteorologist is trying to show detail on a weather map, the viewer doesn’t want a split-screen showing roaring surf or a flooded street- show the dang map. Don’t get cute.

At the same time it appeared that most of the stories making it to air were the ones that could be told from the tether of the satellite truck. There were multiple crews scattered around Manhattan, each stationary, giving their tiny bit of the picture. It was both illuminating- live shots from the middle of the storm!- but also hard to get the big picture when all the network could do was cycle around from one live shot to another, waiting for each situation to change.

When new tools come on the scene it is easy to mistake telling the same old story more cheaply versus telling new stories, stories you couldn’t really gather the old way.

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