How Local TV Stations Covered The March 3rd Tornadoes

I monitored live coverage from Louisville, Nashville, Lexington, Evansville, Paducah, Huntsville and Birmingham as storms roared through the country’s midsection Friday February 2, 2012.  I have no doubt that local TV and radio along with cable and network  broadcasters saved lives. The coverage was simply remarkable.

While I watched online, I turned on my screen-capture program so I could share some clips with you. Consider this a sampling, not an exhaustive roundup.

WSMV in Nashville was pounded by a hailstorm as a big cell passed right over the station on Knob Hill. The hail was so strong that the sound of it pinging off the roof overwhelmed the weathercaster’s voice on the air. The station cleared the studio but the warnings went on despite it all.

The stations I sampled made careful use of user-contributed videos and photos.  WFIE in Evansville, for example, constantly popped in still and video images of the storms that blew through Southern Indiana, even as the storms were still moving through the area.

This clip is from a local who was listening to the TV station’s signal on a radio station.  You will hear the weatherman spot a tornado on the radar  at exactly the time the person holding the camera is seeing the tornado through the camera lens.

WLKY, WHAS and WAVE constantly updated their websites with breathtaking galleries of photos

WLEX made good use of old fashioned “phoners” but laid user-contributed photos over the phone reports.

Reporters and photojournalists who were still on their way to the scene filed quick phone clips.

Several reporters and photographers used their cellphones to file quick, precise reports from multiple locations. The websites could have made better use of those reports by mapping them.

Some stations opened live blogs to keep a running track of damage reports that came in from viewers.

I was especially interested in how WHAS, WLEX and WKYT constantly “sourced” their information.  When they reported damage, they named the source of the information. The Louisville stations seemed especially careful when it came to counting fatalities.

WLKY made exceptional use of its helicopter to get video from Southern Indiana quickly after the storm cells passed. The chopper shots were particularly useful because it was so difficult for journalists to get to the scenes because of traffic and debris.

I was struck by how important is is to have seasoned veterans, especially weathermen, who know their communities like the back of their hand.  Birmingham’s James Spann, for example, seems to know every street in Alabama, he calls them by name.  He Tweets, Facebooks, blogs, does radio chats plus stays on TV non-stop.

Lots of reporters filed to their Facebook and Twitter pages from the field.

WSMV, WTVF and especially WKRN in Nashville weathercasters warned viewers street-by-street as big storms approached.  Then, as the storms passed, they told people it was safe to come out of their “safe places.”   Sometimes newsies get so caught up in the coverage they forget that step. It is a real caring act to remember to tell folks it is okay now.

And they didn’t stop there.
WHAS TV in Louisville is planning a Tuesday afternoon telethon for storm victims.

This is the scene outside Bill Evan’s office WPSD-TV Paducah.  He is the VP for News there. The station gathered storm relief supplies for victims-so far enough to fill a semi and still collecting more.

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