The floods of 2008 have been covered in a way that those of 1993 and 1999 were not. This has been close to my heart, as I have family that was affected by these floods. My grandparents’ home was rendered uninhabitable by the flood waters, so naturally I wanted to know what was going on in the state.
I turned to the site iowaflood.com upon the suggestion of Public Radio International’s mroning news show The Takeaway. Andy Brudtkuhl, a consultant from the Des Moines area, set up a site that drew upon the strengths of citizen journalism and user generated content [UGC]. [In two hours, no less.]
Rather than exclusively posting content of his own, he tapped major media sites [TV, newspaper], services like releases from government officials & the National Weather Service, and feeds of user-generated content from YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter to create a much more comprehensive resource. Other tools included Yahoo Pipes and WordPress. He gives the full details here.
This, to me, represents what citizen journalism can really be. In situations where people need up-to-the-minute coverage of events that change as quickly, custom aggregators like this have no peer. The local TV stations don’t have the manpower or editorial jurisdiction to place unedited feeds on their sites. Conversely, the average Joe doesn’t have a helicopter for those aerial views of the flood damage.
At certain times like this, the power and resources of the masses, with their cameras and mobiles, comes to the fore to complete the coverage. The media goes on about its business most of the time, with UGC trickling in to augment coverage, but switches gears when significant events deem necessary. I don’t think one will not supplant the other; we have proof of a symbiotic relationship in iowaflood.com.
This may well prove to be a model to be followed for future catastrophic events.