News U Reflection, Approaches to breaking news: Hurricane Katrina

By: Natalie Shultz

This course was broken up into different interactive sections. It displayed how different media outlets broke the news on Hurricane Katrina and it gave really good tips, whether you are a writer, editor, photographer, etc. Some themes across the board were keeping it short, keeping it simple, letting the viewers speak for themselves and always being prepared for anything.

1. Citizen journalism:

-Be the hub of breaking news in your community: this site had blogs and forums about events like Mardi Gras in new Orleans, then it became a place for people to share stories about hurricane Katrina as well.

-Preparing for the worst: Nola’s servers are in New Jersey, which was important when the storm hit because they were still able to publish remotely.

-The collective consciousness and wisdom of the crowd: Donley (the editor)  turned his blog over to the city, where he posted stories sent to him about hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Hearing people’s stories in their own words has a greater effect on people.

-The blog that saved lives: e-mails were sent to and a team of people were monitoring the site and forwarding the emails to the missing persons forum. The military monitored that forum and then would send rescue crews out. designers in NJ redesigned the site, removing mostly everything so that people wouldn’t have to sift through so much to find important information in the aftermath.  Reporters from the local newspaper posted their stories in blogs on the site also, which has made many of them change permanently to online.

 -Forums need to learn to accept problems: Stories need to be told by the people and everyone should at least experiment with forums, blogs, and community content management tools.

 -Now that people are rebuilding, the site has had to rebuild as well by adapting the site to remain relevant to the lives of new Orleans citizens.

 2. Resource usage, L.A. Times

-Brainstorming and research are essential.

-Small team of designers had one of first interactive maps up on a few hours after storm

-Production, testing, publishing

-Lessons learned: Keeping it simple for speed’s sake, standard fonts and do not use new version of flash until 6 months after its release

3. Blog reporting, MSNBC

-Looking for a new way to tell the story: Sent live dispatches with slideshows, video, stills and audio to a blog.

-Be prepared: Bring more than one laptop and pocket pcs for internet connection.

-Send teams of 2 (one multimedia producer and one writer).

-Personal stories with the reporters written into the story worked well.

-Short is fine; casual updates throughout the day; don’t need to polish story like in print, don’t be formal-immediacy is the key; comment feature for readers.

-Make good use of photos, videos and audio: Nat sound, slideshows with audio sometimes can be more effective the video for storytelling purposes.

-Comment became a problem: Such a big load that they had to be moved to general comment area. Felt blog was being watered down and people not actually reading the content.

4. Video Documentary, Washington Post

-Perfecting the art of telling a story with 3 minutes or less of video: Digital recording equipment, laptops, lots of batteries; Need multiple communication options with newsroom; Needs to update often; Panoramic photos give a sense of connection to the location; Avoid narration; Interviews, footage of subject doing what they do, interaction; Keep it simple.

5. Use of templates, USA Today

-Timely redesign of hurricane package; Designed a flexible template; Used audio interviews with field reporters because it was quick; Gave it a super digest page with its own url; Pop up flash presentations made it easy for team to adapt.

6. Sounds and stills, Magnum in Motion

-Talk to the heart, not the brain; Multimedia presentations combining interviews with photographers and their photos; Didn’t want breaking news, put personal experiences and emotions; Photographers are natural storytellers; Find balance with ambient sound; Powerful images and real dialogue.


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