behind the news

Newsrooms’ digital Sandy coverage

Outlets are pulling out all the stops
October 29, 2012

Several big news services have put public service ahead of profit by doing away with their paywalls for the duration of Hurricane Sandy. The New York Times allowed unlimited sitewide access from Sunday afternoon, and spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Poynter that the paywall would not be reinstated until the weather emergency is over. The Wall Street Journal and Newsday have also removed their paywalls.

Visitors to The New York Times now have unlimited access to several interactive maps, can contribute their own photos, watch live video and updates, and read a steady stream of ongoing reporting.

Many other organizations are also using Sandy as an opportunity to put their technological capabilities into practice, with some impressive results.

Google has set up a crisis map of shelters overlaid with the latest satellite images of the storm and a New York-specific version of that map, with added information on storm surges and evacuation areas. WNYC has a useful hurricane tracker that has been republished by the Guardian, which also has an interesting data visualization mapping every hurricane since 1851.

The Guardian has been experimenting with live video streams by Adam Gabbatt, who got his shoes wet at Battery Park this morning. The streams are part of the newspaper’s live blog, continuing a long tradition of Guardian live blogs about absolutely everything from election night to courtroom decisions to album releases.

While most newsrooms are putting together fairly comprehensive photo galleries, some are also appealing for reader contributions. The Washington Post and The Huffington Post both asked for readers to contribute photos on Instagram. WaPo is using the Instagram tags #SandyDC, #SandyVA or #SandyMD. For HuffPost, it’s #Sandy and #SandySupplies. The Guardian is also appealing for readers to alert them to #FakeSandy photos, which are already circulating online. Mashable and Buzzfeed both have roundups of fake photos.

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On Twitter, the Port Authority of New Jersey @panynj has comprehensive waterfront updates; Hurricane Central has updates from the Weather Channel @twc_hurricane; the Federal Emergency Management Agency is a good source of evacuation updates and preparedness tips @fema; Breaking News Storm, from the website Breaking News, is retweeting useful reader contributions about school closures @breakingstorm; Eric Holthaus, who writes about weather for the Wall Street Journal, has lots of technical updates @WSJweather; Reuters’s Anthony De Rosa has been verifying reports of damage before posting @AntDeRosa.

Capital New York has a great story on local news services like DNAInfo, often the first to report critical information for local residents. According to Capital NY’s article, The Local East Village, Bowery Boogie, The Brooklyn Paper, and Patch are all reporting through the storm.

We’d love to hear where you’re getting your Sandy updates in the comments below, or on Twitter @cjr. Stay safe, east coasters.

Hazel Sheffield is a journalist and filmmaker based in London. She is a former CJR fellow and business editor of the Independent.