Journalism links 8/29

It was vital before the weekend, even as it is dated now, but here’s a bit of specialty reporting worth your attention. What do you do with prisoners during a hurricane? Nothing, apparently, if you’re New York City:

“We are not evacuating Rikers Island,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference this afternoon. Bloomberg annouced a host of extreme measures being taken by New York City in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, including a shutdown of the public transit system and the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of some 250,000 people from low-lying areas. But in response to a reporter’s question, the mayor stated in no uncertain terms (and with more than a hint of annoyance) that one group of New Yorkers on vulnerable ground will be staying put.

New York City is surrounded by small islands and barrier beaches, and a glance at the city’s evacuation map reveals all of them to be in Zone A (already under a mandatory evacuation order) or Zone B–all, that is, save one. Rikers Island, which lies in the waters between Queens and the Bronx, is not highlighted at all, meaning it is not to be evacuated under any circumstances.

Speaking of the storm, FEMA asked people to use Twitter and Facebook during the bad weather, for fear of otherwise overloading the cell phone system. How many stories are in that sentence, do you think? Meanwhile, the New York Times says Twitter was a playground.

Was Irene much ado about nothing? As of this writing there are 24 deaths and a great deal of flooding, but was the media too panicked? Did the system get too much hype? You could argue both sides. On one hand you never know about hurricanes until they make landfall, and by then it is too late for the media and government to caution and evacuate people. On the other hand, there’s Howard Kurtz:

Someone has to say it: cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon. National news organizations morphed into local eyewitness-news operations, going wall to wall for days with dire warnings about what would turn out to be a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest possible ranking. “Cable news is scaring the crap out of me, and I WORK in cable news,” Bloomberg correspondent Lizzie O’Leary tweeted.


But the tsunami of hype on this story was relentless, a Category 5 performance that was driven in large measure by ratings. Every producer knew that to abandon the coverage even briefly—say, to cover the continued fighting in Libya—was to risk driving viewers elsewhere. Websites, too, were running dramatic headlines even as it became apparent that the storm wasn’t as powerful as advertised.

Copy editing extends to television graphics. Look at what Irene did to some of our nation’s finest cities:


That’s from MSNBC, and probably a layer or software glitch. “That’s live television” some may say, but remember, in times of crisis it is information people need. Be sure you have it right.

Quick hits: We are all members of the media now. I’ve been saying it in classes and presentations for years now. Some of our peers disagree, but the New York Times sees it. How can Google+ be used in journalism education? Here’s a primer from Bryan Murley. Half of U.S. adults use social media, says a new Pew study. The publishing end run on Apple. Publishers want their control, but Apple’s closed model insists they have control; publishers were only going to give for so long.

There’s a saying in broadcasting that every mic is a hot mic, which means be careful what you say around every microphone, because you might be broadcasting without realizing it. ESPN is telling their employees to consider Twitter a hot mic. Agree or disagree? Internet use is on the rise for farmers. The 9/11 archives, raw footage from a wide variety of TV stations and networks during 9/11/01, and the days that followed, is now online.

Finally, typos are bad (says the guy who leaves a lot of them on his own site). Big typos on signs at school, signos, are embarrassing.


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