Covering Hurricanes

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

A reporter is hit by an unexpected wave while covering Hurricane Hermine in Sept. 2016. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

There’s a lot more to covering a hurricane than standing in the wind and rain. As with any natural disaster, reporters covering hurricanes often find themselves in first-responder roles. Local journalists must balance reporting on the hurricane’s aftermath while also responding to the storm’s impact on their own lives. And, depending on the intensity of the storm, the coverage and cleanup efforts can last for weeks or even months.

Below are Poynter articles about covering hurricanes — stories that include lessons learned, best practices and examples of newsrooms responding to tragedy in their own communities. We’ve also gathered some of our most helpful links and training:

Our Coffee Break Course for covering hurricanes includes these helpful tips:

  • Don't race out to cover the storm if you are not prepared. You can put yourself, and others, at risk. There are plenty of other ways to tell good stories.

  • Be global. Other places have been affected by the storm. People in Haiti are still rebuilding from the 2010 earthquake, and many are still homeless. Ask relief agencies and politicians about efforts there.

  • Check the charities. Before you report on any relief work, check an organization's track record. (You can see 990s on Guidestar.) Find out where their money has gone in the past and if they do what they said they would do.

  • Be skeptical of user-submitted photos. Check the meta-data or do a reverse image search through TinEye, RevEye (a Chrome add-on) or Google.

  • Choose your words carefully. Avoid subjective adjectives such as "monster" or "storm of the century." Be factual and inform your audience with objective nouns.

  • Think social first. Online is a great way to connect with your audience before the storm hits. Then they can find you while the power is out. Be active now with social channels and blogs. Point your viewers to tools that can help them stay in touch with one another, too, such as Facebook’s Safety Check.

If you’re covering a hurricane, make sure to prepare, be safe and communicate regularly with your colleagues.

Poynter Results

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon