During record flooding, here’s how one media company is keeping its community engaged

Your Wednesday news roundup

May 29, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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May 29, 2019

Good morning! Here are some of the media stories that are catching our attention today.

Water World

Oklahoma weather is a made-for-TV event. Here’s how one newspaper is serving its community after devastating flooding — no air time needed.

Killer tornadoes. Heavy rains. Damaging floods.

For the past week, Oklahoma TV stations have been working around the clock with live coverage of severe storms pounding the state. Up-to-the-second radar and warnings, along with live videos and storm chasers, highlight the coverage. Weather is a made-for-TV event.

So how do you cover bad weather if you’re a newspaper or website? I asked Tulsa World Executive Editor Susan Ellerbach that very question. Her paper’s approach: Provide as much information as quickly as possible.

“What is it that people need to know?” Ellerbach asked. “Road closures, safety precautions, where help is available, how much water is headed our way from the dam release and what does that mean for households along the river?”

And how does that get to an audience?

“We have been breaking that information out and sending out in pushes, emails and on social media — trying to be that one source where people can get information quickly,” Ellerbach said. “In addition, we’re shooting a lot of video and still shots to show people what it looks like. That has been wildly popular.”

Ellerbach said showing as well as telling as been key. She said Tulsa World photographer Tom Gilbert has been collecting aerial coverage of the flooding and dam releases. Visuals have included photos that show the true impact of the Oklahoma floods, before and after photos of a popular casino on the Arkansas River and links to drone footage.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Ellerbach said. “Also, surprisingly, people responded well to our print presentation — dramatic pictures, lots of coverage and information.”

‘No, we’re not going back to the show, folks’

An Ohio meteorologist went off when people complained that they were missing “The Bachelorette” during weather coverage.


(Screenshot of Jamie Simpson, a meteorologist at Fox 45 in Dayton, Ohio.)

“I’m done with you people!”

People don’t like it when their favorite TV show is interrupted by breaking news. But don’t tell that to Jamie Simpson, a meteorologist at Fox 45 in Dayton, Ohio.

On Monday night, the station broke into “The Bachelorette” because of severe weather, including tornados, that hit the area. (One person was killed in the outbreak.) When viewers complained that “The Bachelorette” was interrupted, Simpson lost it:

“I was just checking social media. We have viewers complaining already: just go back to the show. No, we’re not going back to the show, folks. This is a dangerous situation, OK? Think about if this was your neighborhood. I’m sick and tired of people complaining about this. Our job here is to keep people safe and that is what we’re going to do. Some people complain that this is all about my ego. Stop! Just stop right now. It’s not. I’m done with you people. I really am. This is pathetic. This is a dangerous situation here. …  All right, I’m sorry I did that. It just really bothers me that we have people that don’t care about other people’s safety around here. That’s just ridiculous.”

London culling

CNN announced in a staff gathering that it will be scaling back its international operations.


CNN president Jeff Zucker. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

CNN is cutting back on its London operations. According to The Guardian, CNN boss Jeff Zucker held a town hall-type meeting with staff on Tuesday and said the CNN’s international channel was losing $10 million a year. The Guardian reported that CNN will cut some international programming and staff, while Variety reportedthat some production staff will be moved to the network’s Atlanta headquarters.

In a statement, CNN said, “In the coming months CNN International will be consolidating key parts of its production model centrally in Atlanta, in much the same way as we currently do with large parts of our programming for CNN US. This means that some job will shift to Atlanta, but overall headcount will be unchanged.”

The wrong origin story

The New York Times tweeted that it broke the news about family separations at the border. A Houston Chronicle reporter politely corrected the gaffe.


A mother migrating from Honduras holds her 1-year-old child while surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents after illegally crossing the in 2018, near McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The New York Times’ new TV show, “The Weekly,” debuts Sunday on FX. Each week, it will feature documentary storytelling about a Times story and the journalists behind it, with the debut set to be about immigration coverage.

The Times issued a since-deleted tweet Monday saying Times reporter Caitlin Dickerson “broke the story that the Trump administration had begun separating migrant children from their parents along the southwest border.”

That prompted the Houston Chronicle’s Lomi Kriel to, in a very respectful manner, push back about who broke the story. (It was Kriel.)

Kriel tweeted:

“Really looking forward to this @theweekly episode which promises to be another example of @itscaitlinhd‘s stellar reporting. But this tweet is not correct. @HoustonChron was the first to break the admin’s practice of family separations in Nov. 2017.”

Kriel also tweeted out links to other Chronicle stories, as well as acknowledgingDickerson’s “amazing reporting.”

Kriel concluded with:

“But let’s give regional newspapers their due in struggling times. Again, really looking forward to this episode and what promises to be amazing reporting.”

The Weekly removed the original tweet and sent a new one to Kriel that said:

“We recognize your excellent work. We have deleted our original tweet and updated our thread to provide more specificity around our reporting.”

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.


Bob Weir in 2018 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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