I’m going to write this in a stream of consciousness, the same way I experienced Joplin.
It was my first time covering — more accurately, trying to cover — a disaster. The National desk knows I am a weather geek, so I came close to covering the tornadoes in North Carolina in April, and then the tornadoes in Alabama earlier this month. But the timing wasn’t right in either case.
This time, it was. I happened to be awake at 2 a.m. for a 6 a.m. ET flight to Chicago on Monday morning, just 12 hours after the tornado struck in Joplin. While in the air, I wondered if I should volunteer to go there. When I landed, I looked at the departure board and saw that a flight was leaving for Kansas City in 45 minutes. On a whim, I walk-ran to the gate and asked if I could buy a standby ticket. The agent said yes.
Two calls to New York later, I booked the 8 a.m. CT flight. I told the National desk that I’d be in Joplin at noon local time. I had no maps, no instructions, no boots. I had a notebook but no pen.
What I learned: always carry extra pens.
My cell phone was dying, but I reserved a car online before take-off. On the flight, I wrote a blog post about Oprah.
I was in the rental car at 9:45 and on the highway three minutes later. 176 miles to go, fueled by granola bars purchased at Whole Foods the day before. On the way, there was a conference call with the National desk. I was to travel to the ruined hospital and try to interview doctors, patients and other survivors. My worry, of course, was that the survivors would be far away from the hospital.
Monica Davey, a Times correspondent in Chicago, texted me the hospital address. My iPhone, now charging through my laptop, showed the way ahead. But as I approached Joplin, cell service began to degrade dramatically.
I’m aware that what I’m going to say next will probably sound petty, given the scope of the tragedy I was witnessing. But the lack of cell service was an all-consuming problem. Rescue workers and survivors struggled with it just as I did.
What I learned: It’s easy to scoff at the suggestion that satisfactory cell service is a matter of national security and necessity. But I won’t scoff anymore. If I were planning a newsroom’s response to emergencies, I would buy those backpacks that have six or eight wireless cards in them, all connected to different cell tower operators, thereby upping the chances of finding a signal at any given time.
This is my first time coming upon a natural disaster as a reporter. I suppose my instinct should be “first, do no harm.”
Entering Joplin, I drove along 32nd Street, the south side of the devastated neighborhood, getting my bearings, wondering if it was safe to drive over power lines, looking for a place to leave my car. I parked a block from the south side of the hospital and approached on foot, taking as many pictures as possible, knowing I’d need them later to remember what I was seeing.
I tried to talk to a couple of nurses. They said they were not allowed to.
I started trying to upload pictures to Instagram. It sometimes took what seemed like ten minutes of refreshing to upload just one picture.
A view of the north side of the hospital in Joplin. http://instagr.am/p/EoTHO/
What I learned: In areas with spotty service, Instagram and Twitter apps need to be able to auto-upload until the picture or tweets gets out. (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this.)
I walked to 26th Street, north of the hospital, where the satellite trucks had piled up, and found The Weather Channel crew that had arrived in Joplin just after the storm. After interviewing the crew, we watched the search of a flattened house. That’s when I was able to see the extent of the damage to the neighborhood for the first time.
Part of me thought, “This is a television story more than a print story.” It was an appeal to the heart more than the brain.
I started trying to tweet everything I saw — the search of the rubble pile, the sounds coming from the hospital, the dazed look on peoples’ faces.
==> SHORTCUT TO THIS PAGE: http://bit.ly/sreesoc <==
I am constantly updating, editing, adding to this list. Your feedback, suggestions and tips welcome, sree[at]sree.net or via @sree - mention this page.
FIVE LATEST ADDITIONS BELOW:
- Added infographic resume links to job hunting/career management section
- NEW SECTION: Google+ guides and articles
- [CASE STUDY] Social media sharing increases website traffic +30%. Here’s why
- Twitter For Newsrooms - the official guide: http://bit.ly/twitterfn
- NEW SECTION: Social media and job hunting/career management - scroll down
BELOW: Handouts, tip sheets & reading material | My technology columns | Change your media diet | Social media and job hunting | LinkedIn guides | Facebook guides | Foursquare guides | Twitter guides and articles
==> Be sure to checkout my workshops - in-person and via webcast, including archived recordings: http://bit.ly/sreeworkshops
==> I promise that my sessions, like my tweets, will most likely be: helpful * useful * informative * relevant * practical * actionable * timely * generous * credible * brief * entertaining * fun * occasionally funny
==>What social media can do for media pros and others:
- find new ideas, trends and sources
- connect with readers and viewers in new ways
- bring eyeballs, traffic and attention to their work
- help them create, craft and enhance their brands
If you’d like to be on my monthly e-mail with new tips, workshop listings, etc: sree[at]sree.net
Columbia Journalism School Dean of Student Affairs
Contributing editor, DNAinfo.com: http://dnainfo.com
Twitter: @sree | http://twitter.com/sree
Site: Sree.net | SreeTips.com
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==> Hope you will connect with me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sree and on my new Facebook page at http://facebook.com/SreeTips (I post only tech tips and job leads there) and on LinkedIn page at http://linkedin.com/in/sreenivasan (I accept invitations from people I know; people I should know; people I’d like to know).
HANDOUTS, TIP SHEETS & READING MATERIAL:
- Syllabus and notes for my five-week Social-Media Skills for Journalists course at Columbia: http://bit.ly/socmediaskills (created with @AAdamGlenn and now also taught by @Lavrusik, @NYT_JenPreston @ZSeward and @TCPuente)
- My Twitter Guide for Newbies & Skeptics: http://bit.ly/twitterideas
- My Poynter column on the rise of social-media editors at news orgs around the country: http://bit.ly/sssocmed |
- My Mashable essay, video and slides (co-written with then-student Vadim Lavrusik, @lavrusik, on traits of the future journalist: http://bit.ly/sreefuture
- BBC tells news staff to embrace social media - or leave: http://bit.ly/9qyl5h
- Mashable on how journalists are using social media today: http://bit.ly/bAId0q
- 15 reasons Twitter matters to news organizations, by @ARusbridger, editor-in-chief of @Guardian
- @SteveButtry on why entrepreneurial journalists need to master social media
- Useful stats about social media, from LukeW
- 25 amazing social-media infographics, collected by WebDoctus
- @webjournalist & @facebookmedia’s presentation on intermediate social media
- @lavrusik on how investigative journalism is prospering in the age of social media: http://on.mash.to/hvB0ZL
- How to promote your offline events using social media: http://bit.ly/bxWCsQ
- NYT’s Carol Vogel on museums pursue social-media engagement
- Emarketer on older Facebook users catching up on LIKES
- @Econsultancy’s collection of 16 social media guidelines of real orgs
- CMO.com’s useful infographic explaining how marketing officers should look at various social media channels’ impact on customer communication; brand exposure; traffic; SEO
- [CASE STUDY] BarnRaiser’s list of 34 case studies that prove the ROI of social media
- [CASE STUDY] How Discovery reached 25m Likes on FB & 1.5m Twitter followers without gimmicks: http://bit.ly/eGcePn
- [CASE STUDY] @Armano’s Four stages of social business, Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly
- [CASE STUDY] Social media sharing increases website traffic +30%. Here’s why
NONPROFITS: @Mad_azn’s 5 social media mythbusters, nonprofit edition
- @BLOchman’s 7 reasons why social media won’t work for your company
- @ReadWriteWeb column: Why most Facebook marketing doesn’t work
- DISCONNECTING: How to disconnect, a primer | The value of jumping off the social media train
MY COLUMNS ON THE CHANGING MEDIA LANDSCAPE:
These essays, about the intersection of media and technology, are some of my weekly columns for DNAinfo.com, a Manhattan hyperlocal site I helped create with Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts (whose family just bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field) - be sure to check out the site on the Web, Facebook and Twitter:
Five Things I’ve Learned from Japan Quake | Egypt, Libya, etc * Six ways journalists (and others) can use Twitter better * Twitter Myths & Misconceptions * The Geolocation Wars * What a Non-journo Can Teach Journos About Social Media * Twitter Comes of Age. Again * Much Ado About Tweeting * Facebook’s Coming Privacy Changes * Please Stop Oversharing * Identity in the Age of Facebook * Why Profile Photos Matter * Lessons from a Week without Newspapers * Thoughts About Personal Branding * Thoughts About the iPad * Thoughts about Google TV * Thoughts on Six Months of DNAinfo.com | COLUMN EDITOR, @MPVdna
CHANGE YOUR MEDIA DIET (sites you should be reading):