Hit or Miss

Reported.ly’s video using Google Earth will help you understand the damage in Nepal

April 28, 2015

Employing reporters overseas is a luxury few media outlets can afford. But reported.ly, a globally focused social news venture by First Look Media, has again shown how journalists can add value to international coverage without setting foot on foreign soil.

The devastation in the wake of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal has drawn the eyes of American mainstream media, with coverage ranging from dispatches from remote Nepali villages to infographics taking stock of the damage. The work has been both informative and heart-wrenching, but the formats in which it has appeared haven’t necessarily been unique.

The nascent reported.ly, meanwhile, managed to give its audience something different Sunday with a three-minute video on Facebook. Using Google Earth, editor in chief Andy Carvin guides viewers from historic sites in the Kathmandu Valley to Mount Everest, explaining the significance of each before describing the damage suffered.

Though the video breaks no new information, its digestible format provides a clear view of the geography of the destruction. Google Earth is a familiar tool, and the way users zoom in and out from specific points on a map has come to define, in part, how we create a sense of place. The video’s bird’s-eye views of Kathmandu, for example, appear not unlike those seen as we search for nearby restaurants on our smartphones. Stringing them together challenges us to understand the catastrophe as one affecting a city of neighborhoods, much like our own.

Launched in January, reported.ly covers breaking news in real time through social media. Its six-person team finds and vets relevant content from users on the ground or across the Web, also sharing updates from local and non-local news reports alike. It provides that information and more directly to social users—on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium, to name a few channels—rather than encouraging social users to find that information elsewhere.

“We’re almost like news anchors in the way we publish on these platforms, but with the barrier between anchor and public removed,” Carvin told CJR in January.

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Reported.ly’s video doesn’t boast the rich anecdotes culled from reporting on the ground, nor does it bring the interactive firepower of many mainstream media infographics. But it integrates elements of both into a simple format illustrating not only how the extent of damage varies across Nepal, but also why audiences should care about particular places. The video has garnered more than 1 million views on Facebook and YouTube so far.

Of course, there are limitations to relying on reports, videos, and images gathered from the far corners of the Web. “Apart from [Kathmandu] there are lots of villages turned to rubble and need urgent help,” one Facebook user commented on the video, adding that reported.ly should have also explained the damage in those more remote locales. “The problem,” reported.ly responded, “is that there wasn’t much of any footage yet.”

David Uberti is a writer in New York. He was previously a media reporter for Gizmodo Media Group and a staff writer for CJR. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti.