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Monday, September 22, 2008

Covering a Hurricane Twitter style

Howdy strangers from a mostly powerless Houston. What a week it has been. I still have no power like many Houstonians.

One thing I learned during Hurricane Ike is that Twitter makes one awesome tool in covering a storm. No media or social networking pundit blogs will appreciate this like us in the Gulf Coast. When the power started going down before Ike even hit, I was pounding out news directly to Twitter (an account I threw up for @KTRKHouston). I was also pounding out news on the Breaking News Blog. Sure that blog as well as's local headlines and the Houston Weather Blog were going to Twitter too, but I realized quickly just refeeding stuff to Twitter wouldn't be enough. Why? Think about it. When you are huddled down in your home without power and just a cellphone, tinyurl's stop being cool. Especially with 80 to 100mph winds slamming into your neighborhood.  You just want the news quick and plentiful. That's where I stepped in for nearly 24 hours straight. I started falling asleep while typing at my desk.

The reviews have been quite nice too. Lots of extremely positive and gracious Twitter comments from followers and emails too. It appears that the KTRK feed got a lot of people to also sign up for Twitter just to subscribe to us since our account was the only one they were following. I assume these were evacuees who had fled to other cities. I was also really happy to see someone like Laurence Simon give his thoughts since he knows a lot about both media and social networking.

This got me thinking about how online coverage has changed a lot since 2005's Hurricane Rita, the last big storm to hit near the Houston-area. We now have Twitter for the power outages which really knocks out TV, especially with the digital conversion. No more small battery operated TVs or radios that pick up the TV band after 2009.

Some media professionals will think this was a big waste of time.  I disagree. In times of crisis, the media should be there to get important information to the public and hopefully save lives.   Plus I got a lot of information from followers.  They gave reports from there locations. In the days after the storm, they told me what businesses were open again...I could re-tweet that info. 

So who knows by the next storm what the new hot social networking site will be.  Keep tuned to this blog because whatever it is, I hope to be using it to cover the big event. CONTACT: Leave me a Houston or Texas media news tip | COMMENT: Click to leave your thoughts on this post here