CA Wildfire Coverage: Intriguing Online Approaches

While much of Southern California burns, online news staffs and citizen journalists definitely aren’t fiddling around. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more intriguing efforts:

  • KPBS, the NPR affiliate in San Diego, offers updates on Twitter. This is probably the best use I’ve ever seen for Twitter. It’s simple to subscribe to get the updates by cell, or check them on the Web. Undoubtedly useful for evacuees whose only contact with the outside world right now might be their cell phones.

  • More from KPBS. The station has also put together a Google Map of the fire area that’s more sophisticated than what the LA Times offers. Note the variety of icons and information types, the highway and train closures, the burn area demarcation, and the map legend. (Click the yellow pin to see the legend.)

  • And Still I Persist This blog written by three San Diego-area information technology professionals normally covers an eclectic range of topics, but currently is publishing considerable citizen journalism and other information about the wildfires around San Diego.

  • Barboni.org, a personal weblog started by a resident of San Marcos, Calif. (north of San Diego), features another kind of map — Google Earth overlaid with data from the U.S Forest Service and other sources.

  • Help in San Diego This assistance-oriented blog, very reminiscent of NOLA.com during Hurricane Katrina, was set up by the San Diego Union Tribune site SignOn San Diego. It’s just a simple Blogspot blog — which shows that if you don’t have the in-house tools to do something important online fast, don’t hesitate to use an available service. Tools should never limit your journalistic choices.

  • Housley in the House. This blog, by Los Angeles-based FOX News TV correspondent Adam Housley, is currently featuring frequent updates from the field and raw video footage of the fires and evacuations.

  • NowPublic’s “Emergencies” section is offering a steady stream of citizen journalism, photography, and other kinds of “crowd-powered news” from and about the affected regions. I found this inquiry under the “news wanted” section intriguing.

  • PR Newswire has created a special page of current press releases from businesses, governments, nonprofits and other organizations. Jonathan Evans of PR Newswire said this is “a service we’re providing for free to those needing to send out announcements.”

  • Flickr group, The Southern California Fires 2007 currently has 169 members and over 1500 images. Not all of these photos are great, but there’s an amazing diversity of subject matter, communities, and views represented.

What kinds of innovative online coverage of the fires are you seeing today? Please comment below.

(Thanks to the members of Poynter’s Online News discussion group for tips to some of the items above.)

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