Thanks to Jeff Jarvis, I’m at an Aspen Institute conference called Katrina’s Lessons. Actually, it’s the Katrina media lessons that are being examined here. Purpose, not surprisingly, is to do better next time. Interesting mix of old media, new media, and government people. I think we’ve come up with some good, workable ideas.
Very good thing is that some of the attendees, unlike, me have Katrina experience. Jon Donley is the founder and editor of nola.com, sister website to The Times-Picayune. The site had thirty million page views in a day immediately following the hurricane and did a great job keeping New Orleans people informed, especially when it was still impossible to publish and distribute a physical paper and when many of them were (as many still are) displaced.
Brian Oberkirch is the famous founder of the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog, a great example of citizen journalism.
Martha Carr is the Assistant City Editor of The Times-Picayune and reported from the city as soon as she could get back in.
Chris Slaughter is the Assistant News Director of TV Station WWL. Great planning meant they were able to stay on the air without interruption – lots to learn from them. Also have a website with many feeds – very important to people still not able to return to the viewing area.
Anyway, as happens at this kind of conference, we got broken up into working groups, mine charged with working on how old and new media work together before, during, and after the next emergency. Brian Oberkirch, Bill Gannon who’s Senior Editorial Director of Yahoo!, and I were the new media types. Barbara Cochran, President of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, and Bob Long, Vice President and News Director of KNBC in LA, represented the “old”media. My favorite on air weatherman, Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel, spanned the media generations.
Here’s the plan:
Before the next disaster (hopefully), we’ll try a pilot project in disaster-vulnerable LA. The traditional media will work on making their content, including stuff that doesn’t make it onto the air or into print, more accessible including using the latest in search engine optimization, tagging, etc. Bloggers and web users in general will benefit from direct access to this info and being able to incorporate it in blogs, maps and various mashups. Goal is to do a better job than either new or old media can do alone in mitigating effects of future disasters with planning, info on planning, exposure of non-planning, and dissemination of information needed in a disaster.
During a disaster (because of advance planning, obviously) physical broadcast facilities will become publicly usable hotspots. Remember, they already have tall towers, backup power, Internet connections, and engineering talent. Other locations in the LA region will be encouraged to advertise themselves as hardened hotspots.
Purpose of this is to avoid communication blackouts, facilitate information input both from professionals, amateurs, and everyone inbetween including the holders of camera phones, and to create alternative ways to distribute critical graphic and text information when power blackouts may darken traditional TVs but leave battery powered computers – including cellphones – able to retrieve information and even view TV feeds.
After a disaster comes review. But we are also recommending that post-disaster New Orleans continue to build a wireless, reasonably autonomous, mesh network as its communication system of the future. My contention (don’t want to blame this on the group) is that New Orleans can build a failure–resistant system complete with distributed standby power for considerably LESS than rebuilding the legacy copper system which did not serve it well during Katrina. But it’ll take a lot of persistence to make sure that aid money doesn’t end up rebuilding the past.
Will this all happen? I don’t know but there are dedicated people here used to making ideas come to life. I hope so. Also looking forward to see what the other working groups come up with.
Note to bloggers: the tag “recovery2” is a good one to use on posts related to learning and applying the lessons of Katrina.