NYC’s Deadly Crane Collapse

Just after 8 a.m. today, a crane doing construction work at a high-rise building on the corner of 91st Street and First Avenue, on New York City’s Upper East Side, snapped. Its top half—over 100 tons’ worth of steel—fell twenty stories down, tearing into the facade of the apartment building across the street, ripping into balconies, shattering glass, and crashing onto the ground below. The crane’s operator was killed in the collapse; the number of other injuries or deaths resulting from the accident are, at this point, unknown.

New York City’s news outlets—the Times, the Daily News, the Post—responded to the disaster almost as quickly as its emergency workers: minutes after the crane fell, they’d posted ‘Breaking News’ updates on their Web sites; within an hour, those sites featured articles full of detail, context (today’s accident is eerily similar to another NYC crane collapse, in March), and eyewitness accounts.

MSNBC gave us this poignant observation:

One body was brought out of the rubble at East 91st Street and First Avenue, placed on a gurney and covered in a white sheet. A construction worker knelt over the stretcher, gently stroking the sheet.

In a case like this, informing the public quickly and accurately required a mobilized team of responders, on the ground, collecting information and bearing witness—and another mobilized team of responders, in the newsroom, filtering that information to the public. Coordination was key. Today’s stories—fleshed out by the public, yes, but the result of classic journalistic hustle—required a high degree of institutional expertise to come to fruition as quickly and reliably as they did; together, they’re yet another reminder of the vital importance of “organization” in news organizations.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.