A new role for regional newspaper websites when disaster strikes?

Cumbria floods The developing disaster in Cumbria over  the last 48 hours has, unsurprisingly, led to the emergency services telling people to keep tuned into local TV and radio for updates.

There’s no surprise in this – it’s been the norm for years. When something happens, be it snow causing road and school closures, through to weather events of the magnitude we’ve seen in Cumbria over the last two days, the emergency services have found TV and radio an instant way to broadcast information to communities which need such information.

But  over the last 48 hours there’s been another source of instant information – from the websites of the local newspapers. The Cumberland News, News and Star and co have been using Coveritlive to relay information to users as soon as they get it.

And crucially, they have also responded to questions and information from many of the 4,000-plus people who logged in over 36 hours.

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a massive fan of Coveritlive as it is, but I think the work done by the sites in Cumbria demonstrates just how vital a newspaper/website operation can be in times of crisis.

TV and radio does an excellent job broadcasting information, and they can get to a lot of places which the internet can’t – while driving the car, for example. But for people seeking answers to specific questions, it’s not  the right medium. And rather than see the local emergency services inundated with calls for non-urgent information, wouldn’t it make sense for all areas to create a plan which saw such liveblogs kicked into action as soon as an emergency occurs?

It should be as much a vital part of the emergency plans for any emergency as briefing radio and TV. The fact Cumbria Police appeared to be so actively involved during the live blog demonstrates that.

For me, the work of the Cumberland News and co over the last 48 hours has shown just what a vital role the regional press can now play in passing on real-time information and, above that, ensuring that information people are seeking can receive a quick answer.

One comment

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with this post. For as-it-happens, real-time news, regional press is at the forefront. Whether it is relaying eye-witness accounts or simply keeping local people up to date on a particular situation, regional press really does play a crucial

    It’s such a shame that so many of these long-established publications are closing.

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