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Southern California fires coverage shows potential of internet facilitated reporting

With every new major disaster these days, we see evidence that mainstream media finally is waking up to the power of internet facilitated reporting: experimenting with Google Maps, You Tube, Twitter, Flickr, Technorati, Facebook and various other aggregation and social networking tools.

A few weeks back it was Burma and it's citizen journalists leading the way, this week it's the coverage of the Wildfires in Southern California.

Martin Stabe reports how San Diego TV station News 8 has "responded to the crisis on its patch by taking down its entire regular web site and replacing it with a rolling news blog, linking to YouTube videos of its key reports, plus Google Maps showing the location of the fire.

"There are links to practical information that their viewers will need at this time, including how to contact insurance companies, how to volunteer or donate to the relief efforts, evacuation information and shelter locations.

"It’s an exemplary case study in how a local news operation can respond to a major rolling disaster story by using all the reporting tools available on the Internet," he concludes.

Of course, not all news organisations are equally innovative. As always, though the future may already be here, it's far from evenly distributed – to the dismay and frustration of many of us. Here's Kevin Anderson, blog editor of The Guardian, writing on his personal blog:

"If part of news organisations’ job is to be a trusted guide, why are so many blind to the aggregating this content and helping their audience navigate it? ...I’m still baffled why web aggregation during breaking news with follow up interviews still are the exception not the norm. There are all of these people living through a news event making themselves known through blog posts, photo sharing sites, social networking sites and more, and yet we’re still telling the story through wire copy, agency video and stills..."

Bloggers Blog has a good overview of online reporting and resources from California here.


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