Hurricane #Sandy: Socializing Traditional Media.
Hurricane Sandy highlighted fundamental changes in the way news is created, reported and consumed during a natural disaster. The biggest shift was also the most predictable: the effect of social media. The seamless integration of Twitter, Instagram and other apps into mobile devices allowed anyone with a smartphone to report breaking news. And indeed, these platforms provided the narrative for the first 48 hours of the storm. But all digital technology is dependent upon a functioning electrical grid. As power outages rolled up the East Coast, traditional media outlets took on renewed importance.
Three key media lessons emerged in the storm’s wake: (1) Social media is invaluable, but its limitations are significant. Twitter is useless when your phone is out of batteries. (2) Radio and other traditional news outlets still have an important role to play in emergency broadcasting. But their reach is amplified when they embed themselves within the social media environment. (3) During a disaster, the best news is local news. People will track down local information on whatever platform they can find it.
Unlike previous hashtagged natural disasters, #Sandy did not arrive unannounced. When the storm finally made landfall in the late afternoon on October 29th, hatches were battened and smartphones were charged. The resulting deluge of digital data almost rivaled the storm itself. Sandy was the top phrase on Facebook, where users speculated about the storm’s damage and provided updated information about their location and safety. More than 800,000 Instagram photos featured a “#Sandy” hashtag. Some 20 million tweets included storm-related terms. Our infographic below highlights these figures, and details the extent of the storm’s damage.