Some observations about coverage of the Chch earthquake.
I’ve been away since Friday without much access to technology. No laptop or twitter (the app on my blackberry has stopped working). Facebook, email and text ok.
The quake woke me (as it did many others). I was in Wanaka. It was the biggest I’ve ever felt. Rolling and swaying. Seemed to go on forever.
Was paralysed. And a bit scared. Afterwards I went to facebook and put up a wee, slightly plaintive message (4.40am). Got an instant reaction from Chch, Wgtn and Nelson. In Chch the messenger said the quake was still happening, which is when I got an inkling it was bigger there.
I went to the Stuff, NZ Herald and RadioNZ websites on my Blackberry. Nothing. I went to the GNS website to see what sort of quake it was. Nothing. I then turned on TV in the motel and got CNN with a Breaking News banner telling me there was a massive quake centred near Chch.
Someone on Facebook told me there was something up on Geonet. So I went there. They said 7.4 magnitude. I considered ringing someone up. Wasn’t sure who. Didn’t know the extent of it. Lay awake and worrying until I felt I could ring people up at home.
Had to leave early to go up a mountain with child.
Saw some more messages on Facebook about RadioNZ being slow off the mark.
But by the time I got up the mountain there was live TV coverage and the Radio was full of it. And during the day I kept tabs on what was happening by the live footage and breaking news banners on both TV channels. It was a big day for our emergency services and media with the tragic plane crash in Fox Glacier as well.
The live coverage went on late into the night and again on Sunday morning. Impressive.
It may have taken a few hours to get up and running but both TV channels and radio seem to have done a good job. Live electronic media is critical at a time of emergency.
I think ours pretty much did us proud and hats off to the decisions made by both TV channels to send staff to Chch, to call people in and to take regular shows off air and go live through the day. It was warranted. And along with the countless other I add my thoughts to everyone affected.
I’d also like to give credit to Telecom for being onto it and ensuring that there were regular updates during the day about the state of telecommunications particularly for emergencies. I think our telecommunication carriers generally did a good job of ensuring people were able to be in contact with each other.
I would however say two things.
1. Twitter and Facebook (and possibly other social media) have become critical at a time of emergency. I suspect that’s how many loved ones contacted each other, especially if they had an app on their mobile phone (and the electricity was out). People were able to swap their experiences, express their frustration and horror and support each other, as well as provide valuable up to date info throughout the day. So that tells us how important mobile coverage is. Not just for calls and texts.
2. CNN is still King of breaking news (in conventional media)
Below is one of the tweets which will have assisted people follow the twitter conversation during yesterday (and today). The hashtag is the most important thing as it allows you to search Twitter and aggregate your content to follow the conversations.
Note: It was put up at 5.52am and was retweeted 100+ times, which means it will have reached thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people.
Please help us report this story. Contact @breakingnewseds if you’re in Christchurch or elsewhere in New Zealand and have quake info #eqnz Saturday, 4 September 2010 5:52:37 a.m. via breakingnews.com
PS: For those of you who haven’t been following, I have written a series of posts titled the news is crap. In this case it isn’t.