Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snow, part 1

Well, it has been a crazy few days, and there's nothing like a big snowstorm to make me love my job more.

On Wednesday, forecasters were predicting we would get 3 to 6 inches of snow on Thursday morning. As the early morning person, I decided to go ahead and go into work before my 6:30 a.m. shift started. When I left my house, there was not a flake of snow. By 9 a.m., it was coming down fast and complete with thunder.

Since the snow started after most people got to work, many ended up stranded as they tried to get home at midday when they realized it got bad. The interstate was shut down, there were cars and even buses stranded everywhere and the university ended up closing (a very rare event). By 3 p.m. we had 11 inches of snow — a much bigger deal than 3 to 6 inches.

It was the kind of day journalists live for. I was so busy managing our website and social media accounts, the first time I got up was to go to the bathroom at 12:30 p.m. (I did have a stash of food to sustain me.)

I was doing everything I could to inform our readers and share any information I had. I was tracking the MoDOT traveler map and sharing screenshots of interstate cameras. I was tracking everything people said about the snow using a hashtag. And I was trying to translate the information I was sharing with our audience on social media with those using our website. I was juggling so many things and easily had 20 tabs open on my browser, but those are the situations where I thrive.

Meanwhile, our outreach team was collecting people's pictures shared on social media in an easy-to-view format. This was our first experiment with the tool, and it turned out awesome. The team also had a Google map going that showed road conditions based on submissions from our readers and staff. All this stuff on our site was so popular, the site actually went down about 1 p.m. on Thursday. The tech guy got it up and running quickly, but it was a testament to how many people wanted the information we were providing.

I did make an escape about 4:30 p.m. to come home and get some rest before I went back bright and early Friday morning. On Friday, I did much of the same. What was cool was that people realized we were a good resource for information. People on Twitter started asking what we knew about road conditions at various intersections and roads around town. Using our Google map, MoDOT and anecdotal information from reporters and Twitter, I responded to each question. And that was my favorite part of the day. I loved that "direct" interaction with people and knowing that people turned to us for information.

This was one of those adrenaline-rush events that even though it is fun for me in my job is a pretty serious situation. Fortunately, there were hardly any accidents, and we didn't hear of any fatalities. But there were a lot of people stranded or students who had a long walk home.

But it was a reminder that the newsroom is exactly where I want to be during an event like this and that's what was missing in my time in Virginia. The bonus of this newsroom is that we got to do all of this stuff and teach our students how to do it at the same time. The downside, of course, is that two long days of hard work doesn't let me me off the hook for teaching class Monday morning. I'll be spending some time preparing for that on Sunday!

No comments:

Post a Comment