Trying new ways to cover fires


Crises force people to think differently. Faced with a rapidly moving story, media outlets in Southern California have done an outstanding job in adopting Web 2.0 tools to keep readers informed during the tragedy.

SignOnSanDiego, the Web site of the Union-Tribune, has a regularly updated map of the fires in San Diego (screenshot above). Fire perimeters are shown on the map. The map also includes geotagged pictures and videos. Click a ZIP code and you can see which structures burned in that area on the map. The page also provides updates on evacuation orders.

SignOnSanDiego started a new blog on Blogger with the latest in fire news. Blogging platforms are more conducive to getting news out fast and in a way that is clearer than traditional content management systems. They also come with built-in notification tools. The wildfires blog has 425 posts so far this week. An accompanying help blog lists offers of assistance for area residents.

The site is also making good use of user-generated photos and videos. The tools and UI are crude, but pictures like this one do a good job of telling the story. Embed code is provided for the videos.

KPBS has a Twitter account with important updates such as “Boil Water Order issued for Barrett Valley.” The account has 969 followers. With Twitter, residents can subscribe to get alerts via SMS.

Such alternative distribution is important when people have evacuated their homes, as well as for those with relatives in the area.

The Los Angeles Times has its own fire map, user-generated photo gallery and Twitter account. A fire-damage database allows users to search for homes that have burned. They’ve also teamed up with other media outlets for an evacuee database.

Many of these things are impossible or not very useful in print. It’s great to see so many outlets experimenting.

Update: The Google blog has a list of fire maps.

More on: maps, newspapers


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in geotagging, journalism, maps, media, newspapers, web 2, web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

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