Articles about "Hurricane coverage"

New York magazine, New Yorker capture spirit of Sandy, election

New York magazine editors: “The easiest part of a harried three days came Friday around noon, when we met to settle on the cover. A photograph taken by Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, showing the Island of Manhattan, half aglow and half in dark, was the clear choice, for the way it fit with the bigger story we have tried to tell here about a powerful city rendered powerless.” Photographer Iwan Baan tells Poynter how he got the shot.
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NY Post: ‘Abuse of Power’ for marathon’s media tent to get electricity

New York Post
It’s shocking! The media tent at this weekend’s New York City Marathon is being powered by “two massive generators… being run 24/7 in Central Park,” reports the New York Post. “And a third ‘backup’ unit sits idle, in case one of the generators fails.”

After a quick explanation about how the government could legally seize the generators and redistribute them to storm-damaged neighborhoods still without power, the Post reports they’ve been paid for by the New York Road Runners Club, which operates the marathon. “These are our private generators. We are not draining any resources from the city’s plan to recover,” New York Road Runners spokesperson Richard Finn “angrily insisted” to the paper. Read more


During hurricane, immigrant communities turned to ethnic media

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, many ethnic media in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) served as a lifeline to their respective communities by providing vital information. Without an ability to publish, newspapers translated information and posted it online. Sometimes, the journalists, who are respected community leaders, gave advice over the phone. …

In the hours before the tropical cyclone hit the city, ethnic media translated the emergency preparedness information and advisories from local and state officials into relevant languages and posted them on their websites. For those with limited English-language skills, the translations were their only source of disaster information. …

Anthony Advincula, New American Media


Whose fault is it that ‘Comfortably Smug’ lies about Hurricane Sandy spread?

The Guardian | The Atlantic | The New York Times | GigaOM
Shashank Tripathi was always a jerk on Twitter, Heidi N. Moore writes, but the BS he was pushing out to his @ComfortablySmug followers during Hurricane Sandy was only a problem after others, including journalists, started sharing it.

[I]f Tripathi’s silly tweets made it into the national press, it is the national press that is, at heart, to blame for not protecting journalistic standards as well as they should. It is a matter of a few minutes to call a spokesperson or check a live camera, and that is what journalists get paid to do. Producers or editors should not rush information to air or print until those calls have been made, and answered.

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Emergency information response is a public service we can coordinate through real-time verification

It didn’t take long for a variety of debunking efforts to help combat misinformation and fake images related to Hurricane Sandy.

The Atlantic launched InstaSnopes, the “Is Twitter Wrong?” Tumblr spread quickly, BuzzFeed collected fake images and produced a related quiz, and Storyful did its usual #dailydebunk of fake content. Others stepped in to help with verification efforts.

Articles at The Week, the “Today” show, ABC News and numerous other media outlets debunked fakes and helped spread the word. But it wasn’t only journalists that tried to stop the flow of false information:

Con Edison’s Twitter account even responded directly to a Twitter user that BuzzFeed called out as being a source of misinformation:

As a result, Mathew Ingram and John Herrman emphasized the efficient way that Twitter can knock down misinformation. Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman also looked at the self-correcting nature of Twitter.

“Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace,” Herrman wrote. “To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: That we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity.”

Yes, Twitter is used to spread misinformation, and it’s also a powerful fact checking network. Any tool or network that can spread information will spread both good and bad information. This is because humans offer an abundance of both, especially during fast-moving breaking news events.

The question, then, is how can we make Twitter and other networks more efficient at debunking lies and spreading facts?

I believe part of the answer is for news organizations, journalists, government agencies and other entities to coordinate and cooperate on big breaking stories, especially during crisis situations and natural disasters.

Collaboration and coordination

Federal agencies coordinate with state and local officials during events such as Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, we saw New York papers knock down paywalls as a public service so anyone and everyone could freely follow the storm’s progress and effects.

This same spirit of cooperation and public service should extend to the coverage of these extraordinary events.

The idea is to bring news organizations and other key players together during disasters and big breaking stories to coordinate the creation and sharing of debunking, and the spread of quality information.

This happened in small doses on Monday. Here’s Stephanie Haberman of Mashable pitching in to help Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic verify an image:

Tom Phillips and “Is Twitter Wrong?” also partnered with Madrigal.

Here are folks from The Huffington Post, The New York Times and Mashable, among others, interacting to verify another image:

Collaboration and coordination are key during an event like Sandy. We need to formalize this process.

What would that look like?

I previously wrote up a Knight News Challenge proposal for a similar service called TruthTrend. (It was submitted privately, and was therefore not made public.) A central goal of it was to “alert journalists and the public to emerging hoaxes, misinformation and other forms of false information that are making their way into the press and onto social networks.”

A few months ago, I updated the proposal after talking with Felim McMahon of Storyful about their debunking work, and how it might be used to help inform the public and other journalists.

I renamed the project WarningWire and focused less on using technology to identify trending misinformation and more on creating a network of news organizations, journalists and other parties to establish a human debunking network.

I hope a group of organizations, including Poynter, can work together to secure a grant and test whether a centralized, non-profit organization could act as a (mis)information clearinghouse during breaking news and other big events, as well as a source of best practices for knocking down misinformation. (A non-profit seems to fit with the goal of it being a public service.)

At the core of the concept is a recognition that many news organizations will still want to do their own debunking work. But now they can avoid the duplication of tasks by focusing on information that hasn’t yet been investigated, and hopefully see their work spread farther and faster thanks to a coordinated effort.

WarningWire would aggregate debunkings on its site with clear credit and links out, and work hard to help push out links on Twitter and elsewhere. It would help coordinate debunking efforts, and encourage outlets to promote their work and the related work of others. That’s the public service.

A clearinghouse and air traffic controller

The idea is that news organizations — especially those not engaged in debunking — will now know where to check an image or stat before they report or retweet it. Government and aid agencies would have a central point of contact to help spread correct information and share their debunkings. And everyone can work together to combat the flow of misinformation.

There will, of course, be outlets who choose to only trust the information that’s been processed by their people. It’s a great instinct. But the vast majority of outlets do not do this work. What they need is a place to find some of the best debunkings, especially during a breaking news event.

Outside of breaking events, the small team at WarningWire would track misinformation, suspicious images and video, and aggregate them so as to provide something of an assignment desk for any news organizations checking content. They would also provide guidance as to the best ways to sort misinformation from accurate information.

An obvious challenge: getting news organizations that compete every day for information and stories to work together. One way to get past this is for WarningWire to become a driver of traffic to organizations that do the debunking. The aggregation model of Mediagazer is an example of how the site could showcase content while still driving traffic to participating outlets.

In this sense, WarningWire is a clearinghouse and air traffic controller not a source of all or even most of the debunking. It’s a platform for people to share what they’ve done, see who’s debunked what, and have access to important information for dissemination during breaking news events.

People coordinating WarningWire would work in the service of everyone, rather than any single organization or partner. That may suggest the need for a cooperative ownership or oversight structure.

If it proves popular enough to attract ads and/or sponsors, then there would need to be a revenue sharing model after costs are covered. Ultimately, it will need to be self-sustaining so a revenue model built on traffic, sponsorship, and/or a membership structure is eventually essential.

We will never rid public networks of fakery and misinformation. But by banding together to share resources and coordinate efforts, the press and other entities can be more effective at spreading the truth. Read more


‘Is Twitter Wrong?’ became central to debunking during Hurricane Sandy

Tom Phillips, an international editor at MSN based in England, started “Is Twitter Wrong?” in August to debunk misinformation coursing through the social sphere. His Tumblr rose to prominence quickly this week as he sorted real photos from fake ones during Hurricane Sandy. Earlier this week, Phillips said correct tweets on Twitter is “like putting toothpaste back in the tube, except the toothpaste is alive and didn’t like it in the tube and is dreaming of Broadway.” Curious about his work, I emailed questions to Phillips on Tuesday, he responded overnight Wednesday. Our edited email exchange appears below.

Poynter: The first post I see on the ‘Is Twitter Wrong?’ Tumblr is from August. What was the inspiration for starting it then?

Tom Phillips: It was something I’d been mulling for a while; the need for something Snopes-like, but focused on quick-turnaround verification of stuff on social media. I’m a big fan of the rise of fact-checking as up-front journalistic content, rather than just background process — but for some reason, the major fact-check sites tend to concentrate more on important claims made by serious people who run countries, and less on whether @topbants473 has really taken a picture of a tiger in his back garden. (There are occasional noble exceptions to this rule.)

Tom Phillips

I think the original thing that tipped me over the edge into actually doing it was a spate of pictures supposedly from the Mars Curiosity rover, which had just landed. Most of them weren’t (they were largely from previous rover missions), but there were so many tweets going around that trying to track them all down to tell people they were wrong individually seemed impractical. Not to mention a bit dickish. So I set up the Tumblr instead.

Before that, I’d often find myself doing stray bits of fact-checking things on Twitter, and finding that it was a) remarkably quick and easy to debunk a lot of it, and b) really hard to stop it spreading even after it had been debunked. I figured that it might be easier if, rather than playing an endless game of chase-the-tweet, you had somewhere off-Twitter that both gave you more space to show people evidence, and also provided a permanent URL that you could easily share — and which other people could then spread for you.

So, partly it was just to scratch an itch, but it was also deliberately an experiment to see if something like that could work, from a journalistic point of view. I’m a big fan of using Tumblr as a quick-and-dirty way of trying ideas out in your spare time. It’s littered with the bones of works-in-progress and good-ideas-at-the-time that never went anywhere. Given that we’ve got platforms which make it so easy (and free) to set things like this up, it seems a bit weird to not use them to prototype your content before committing major resources to it — to see if there’s an audience, see if the content actually works, see if the workflow is manageable or if it gets crazy.

In Monday’s post you got on a bit of a roll, debunking photo after photo that claimed to be of the current storm. Can you share a bit about the process you went through for doing that?

It happened in a pretty haphazard fashion. I certainly hadn’t planned on doing rolling debunking. Initially, the post was just a response to the first notable false picture that was being passed around, plus a few usual-suspect storm pictures thrown in as a sort of pre-emptive strike. Really, it was mostly an excuse to talk about cloud formations, because I am a very interesting person who is a delight at cocktail parties.

But from there — possibly because of the time it went up, early afternoon London time, but when a lot of [people on] the U.S. East Coast were starting their day — it sort of snowballed. People started getting in touch asking about other images, or pointing out fakes that they’d seen, so I kept adding them to the post.

I’m not quite sure when I realised that it had become a de facto hub for all of the day’s dodgy pictures, but I think once Wil Wheaton reblogged it, it became apparent that it had become sort of A Thing.

At that point — still several hours before landfall — almost all of them were pretty easy to disprove (mostly, a simple reverse image search was enough, or other techniques such as “remembering what happened in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’”). At the same time, Alexis Madrigal had started doing his InstaSnopes thing over at The Atlantic, and somebody tweeted at us that we should team up. So we did, at which point we got sucked into a swirling vortex of Photoshopped shark pictures.

That’s when the fact-checking became a lot harder. Suddenly, we had images that couldn’t be reverse image searched, and where the original provenance was uncertain (and harder to track down when things are moving so fast). So we were falling back on, variously, scouring StreetView and Bing Maps for buildings that matched with pictures, reverse-engineering Photoshops by image searching their constituent parts, looking for mentions of locations on Facebook, and often just asking Twitter for help. Not long after landfall, the Instagrams were coming so quickly that it was impossible to keep up, so it was a question of picking the ones that, essentially, looked most interesting.

Phillips debunked this widely-shared photo on Monday.

(By the way, one reason Alexis’s format was a huge improvement on mine: the idea of putting the Real/Fake labels on each picture, which was very simple and very smart. Not only did it look rather stylish, but it encouraged people to share the fact-checked images without worrying that they could then be taken out of context again. Given that the rationale I had for starting ITW was that rumour control works best when you make it easy for people to share the results of the fact-checking, I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it.)

Given this little niche you’ve carved out here, what’s your worldview on the reliability of social media information and how the public and the media should use it? Do you think Twitter is a net positive in spreading true information efficiently — or have your debunking efforts soured you on it?

I think it is a net positive, although only just — and it takes work to keep it that way. I’m still a bit bemused by how casually some people spread things that are flat out wrong, but I think most people have a general desire to not be talking absolute bollocks. Or at least, to not be seen to talk absolute bollocks.

The Guardian’s great analysis of how Twitter rumours spread (and died down) during the London riots suggested how finely balanced it is. Plenty of the rumours explode rapidly, threaten to get out of control, but are eventually tamped down thanks to a combination of both journalists and the general public going through the motions of being sceptical, asking for facts, and making sure good information is shared widely enough to drown out the bad.

I know people are getting a bit meh over the phrase “citizen journalists,” for all sorts of good reasons. But when you’re looking at the basics of fact-checking and making sure false rumours don’t multiply, it really has to be a mass participation activity.

We’ve got all these platforms built for rapid spreading of information, but we don’t really have any architectures of verification.*

So it needs social structures to make up for that lack; standard ways of interacting that help us get to the truth, and a degree of social censure that provides a disincentive to spread misinformation.

Little functional ways of pushing ourselves in that direction can be newsrooms building this kind of verification into their workflows, journalists collaborating with each other across organisations outside of their newsroom structures, journos and non-journos working together, or the public simply getting on and doing it themselves regardless of what the hacks are up to.

As John Herrman notes, traditional newsgathering in intense or fast-moving situations can — with the best of intentions — be as dangerous a source of false rumour, and sometimes it can take the combined force of multiple minor acts of verification to push back against that. And that’s the key point; much of this really is something everybody can do, in minimal time, with free and publicly available tools. There’s no secret journalist magic to it.

*Total sidenote here, but I hope somebody, somewhere is working on some kind of platform for collaborative, real-time verification. Obviously we already have lots of platforms for collaborating, and lots of tools for verification, and lots of sites and services that specialise in collating widely-sourced information, especially around major events. But I’d really like to see something that puts the kind of ad-hoc working-together-to-check-a-firehose-of-dubious-stuff that loads of us were doing yesterday at its core — in the same sort of way that, say, Branch is taking conversation really seriously, or Storify makes curating user-friendly. Obvious caveat: Maybe it already exists, and I just don’t know about it.

Editor’s Note: Craig Silverman has proposed just such a collaborative, real-time verification architecture. Details here. Read more


Why fake photos are as appealing as real ones in a disaster

Reuters | Salon
What makes humans “hunger for more disaster and mayhem,” Jack Shafer asks, looking at how we greedily lapped up every jot and tittle about Hurricane Sandy this week. “Television and the Web,” Shafer writes, “place us in the comfortable zone between too-far-away-to-feel-the-rush and I’m-so-damned-close-I-got-splattered-with-blood.” Had the Washington-area resident’s house not lost power, he says,

the media buzz I got last night from the Hurricane Sandy coverage could have kept me up for hours beyond my usual bedtime. Had my electric power been restored by morning, I don’t have to tell you what my first act would have been upon awakening.

That “disaster porn” has a byproduct, writes Laura Miller: Read more

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New York Post unpublishes story about Bloomberg banning passenger cars

The New York Post briefly published a story this afternoon saying that Mayor Mike Bloomberg was about to ban passenger cars from the city. The story read:

Mayor Bloomberg will announce later today that passenger cars will be temporarily barred from entering Manhattan, as New York struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy, City Hall sources told The Post.

Bloomberg will reveal details of the restriction at a press briefing shortly.

The ban will be similar to travel restrictions enforced shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, sources said.

The misinformation spread widely on Twitter before being debunked by the Mayor’s Office. Read more


How prepared are you for a website outage like this week’s in NYC?

BuzzFeed’s website went offline Monday night (as did other news sites like Huffington Post and Gawker) when the data center housing its servers flooded. Pando Daily’s David Holmes talked to BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith about how the site responded — switching all publishing over to Tumblrs as a stopgap while rebuilding its own site, from scratch.

Just three developers worked throughout most the night to get back up and running [in the cloud on Amazon Web Services]. One of them, Eugene Ventimiglia, kept working even after a tree fell through the roof of his home in North New Jersey.

“It took years to build (Buzzfeed) and they rebuilt it in six hours,” Smith said.

Of course, AWS cloud hosting has had its own failures when weather or power outages affected its server farms in Northern Virginia. So it’s probably smart for news orgs to have layers of backup plans.

There can often be a virtual wall between the editorial side and technology side of a news organization. Newsroom editors may need to start asking more questions about their site’s technology setup. How and where is our website hosted? How is data backed up? How would it be restored, how long would that take and what would it look like as that process was under way? Are there redundancies in case one part fails? Read more


How the world sees U.S. disaster in wake of Hurricane Sandy & how we see ourselves

The images from Hurricane Sandy have been frightening and moving as they flash across our screens. This week’s front pages have made those images stand still. They reveal how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. A selection of today’s 20 most interesting fronts appears below. How many ways are there to say “devastated”? You’ll see. Pages appear courtesy of the Newseum, some have been cropped to remove ads.

Front page appears courtesy of the Newseum.
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