The Media Today

The media today: Scenes from Harvey’s destructive path

August 28, 2017

Television carried footage of dramatic rescues, newspapers dropped their paywalls to keep readers informed, and social media filled with harrowing eyewitness accounts. Apocalyptic scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey dominated media coverage over the weekend and into Monday morning. Houston and its surrounding regions are being battered by torrential rain and rising waters, and the story is far from over.

As national outlets descended on the nation’s fourth-largest city, local reporters more than pulled their weight. “We have the entire editorial staff activated,” Houston Chronicle Managing Editor Vernon Loeb told CNN’s Brian Stelter. A slideshow of photography from the Chronicle team showcases their reporting throughout the region.

The staff of the local CBS affiliate, KHOU 11 News, was forced to evacuate their studio as flooding from the nearby Buffalo Bayou poured into their office, but reporter Brandi Smith and photographer Mario Sandoval remained on the air from the field. They provided one of the most dramatic scenes of the day’s coverage. After Sandoval spotted a driver trapped in the cab of his tractor-trailer, Smith flagged down passing sheriff’s deputies, alerting them to the man’s situation. She then narrated the driver’s rescue while the camera rolled. “Nothing is more valuable than your life and the lives of your family members,” Smith said at one point, her voice full of emotion. “Sometimes we get flak because, yes, we are out in it. We are doing the things we’re telling you not to do. We do it so that we can show you how bad the conditions are so you do not attempt them.”

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Comparisons to Hurricane Katrina are hard to avoid, but one significant difference in this weekend’s coverage was the prevalence of social media updates and pleas from those trapped by rising waters. With reports that emergency service phone lines were overloaded, many residents took to Facebook and Twitter to share their locations and ask for help. “I have 2 children with me and tge,water [sic] is swallowing us up. Please send help…911 is not responding!!!!!!” one resident posted on Twitter. She later updated to say she had been rescued, writing, “Thank you everyone and thank you Facebook!!!!!! The miracles of social media. Forever grateful!!!”

With rains expected to continue through the week, flooding is expected to get worse. This story is only beginning. Below, more on the coverage.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.