Let it snow: Six websites to help the “weather reporter”

A snowy day in Lancashire

It’s that time of year again.  All of a sudden, weather becomes a story – and quite often a big story.

For newspapers and their associated websites, it is often a time when people who might not be regular readers turn to their local media again.

And there are a number of websites and tools out there for reporters given the task of keeping their newspaper/website up to date. Here are five I’ve found handy in recent weeks:

1. UKSnow

One of the best examples of crowdsourcing going, UKSnow is a mash-up of tweets which contain the following: the hashtag #uksnow, the first three or four characters of a postcode and snow rating out of 10 – 1/10 for a light flurry, 10/10 for a massive snow storm – and a map. The latest tweets also appear on the right-hand side, so if you know the snow has started in your area, you can look out for your postcodes and match them up with specific locations.

When the snow fell on Monday in Birmingham, it was very useful for the Birmingham Mail to report not just that snow was falling in the city, but naming parts of the city where it was snowing. That gives the reader much more to go on – but make sure you credit the snowmap.

2. Traffic England

The Traffic England website provides updates on motorways and A roads, so when the snow falls, or another weather “event” takes place, this is a handy site to find out what is going on. Of particular use are the motorway traffic flow page and the traffic map, as you can select to see the traffic cameras from the area. This can be used to give you a feel of the weather conditions in different parts of your patch. Details of crashes, incidents and average speeds can all be useful for the weather story too.

3. BBC Weather Page

Getting a good, local weather forecast which is up to date is essential when writing local weather copy, and the BBC’s website provides this in easy-to-use detail. It allows you to drill down to quite local areas and see the weather forecast over the next five days.

4. Flickr

Anyone who manages user-submitted content will tell you that nothing gets the pictures rolling in faster than snowfall – but why wait for the pictures to come to you? If your newspaper has a Flickr group, keep an eye on that, but also do simple searches for “snow” and the name of your area. If you newspaper does have a Flickr group, then you’ll have an arrangement on using the photos. If the photo isn’t in your group, contact the person who uploaded the photo (this requires membership of Flickr) and ask if you can use it. Very rarely do people say no.

5. Twitter search

Find out what people are saying about the weather in your area by using Twitter Search – type in the name of an area, and the word “snow” or “ice” and see what comes up. You might see a lot of tweets which are also covered by UKSnow, but you’ll probably also pick up useful information on what people are seeing out and about.

6. Your local council – school closures

Many councils – I’m not quite confident enough to say most councils, but it can’t be far off – are very good at firing up details about school closures in their areas once the snow falls. This is useful info worth taking for your website and also linking to.  Many councils also update on gritting, bin collections and other issues caused by the snow.

If there’s anything I’ve missed – please add it below

3 comments

  1. “contact the person who uploaded the photo (this requires membership of Flickr) and ask if you can use it. Very rarely do people say no.”

    And don’t forget to pay the person if your newspaper does use their photo.

    1. Agree the terms from the photographer by all means. It may not even be that you want to use the picture, but at least you have information of where it has snowed?

  2. Nice list of useful news sources, snow always catches the UK out (why?) and getting to local facts rather than the ‘story’ so often put out by the mainstream media is vital to keep things moving. Watching idiots panic buying and creating the problem could be helped by responsible reporting at local levels being promoted by national feeds.

    Steve
    http://stevewardell.wordpress.com/

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