Lessons for media in Gabrielle’s wild embrace

As immediate dangers recede, we will see and hear more and more in the media about the lessons to be learned from Cyclone Gabrielle’s devastation. Several of those insights relate to the news media themselves.

First, however, news teams can stand proudly beside those who responded to the national emergency. Reporters, visual journalists, anchors, news executives, production teams and technicians did the industry proud in bringing vital information to the public. They more than vindicated the heading on this commentary a week ago: Thank God for news media in a storm.

We watched, listened, and read as contact with large areas of the North Island were cut off by raging water, as houses and livelihoods were swept away, and as the cost in human lives began to mount. For some, electricity and Internet were cut and even the media horizon shrank, sometimes to nothing if there were no batteries for that transistor radio retrieved from a bottom drawer. And news teams in those blacked-out areas used all their ingenuity to keep reporting and to maintain contact with the outside world as they moved through the broken landscape. Continue reading “Lessons for media in Gabrielle’s wild embrace”

Thank God for news media in a storm

The brave little shrubs are doing their valiant best to stay intact as a plant pot skids across our balcony in Cyclone Gabrielle’s first caress. With much worse yet to come I need to know what, where, and when.

I need information and, if I have to cut my way through a jungle of official sources, I will still be in the rain forest when Gabby takes me in her crushing embrace.

This, I tell myself, is precisely why we need news media. They draw together an overwhelming range of sources and condense information into a readily absorbed format. Then they keep updating and adding to the picture.

As I write this commentary on Monday, that picture is already changing. An hour ago, the rain was a fine drizzle and there was little wind. Now the rain is heavier, and the wind is coming in strong gusts. In another couple of hours I expect the freight train that Northland residents heard as Gabrielle passed through, and the driveway will be a cascade. Then the triangle of soil (that has already subsided by about 30 centimetres) may slide from the edge of the adjacent bush reserve into the stream below.

Continue reading “Thank God for news media in a storm”