Conveying the Scope of the Tuscaloosa Tornado’s Devastation to the World

Convey finer points to the international media trying to cover the devastation in the wake of the tornado that came through Tuscaloosa Wednesday.

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It’s now 7  a.m. in the Central Time Zone and literally the whole  world is waking up to what happened here in Tuscaloosa yesterday.  After my earlier blog list, celebrating the return of electrical power to my home, I got a call from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

Joined by a University of Alabama student, James and another resident of Birmingham, (that would be the largest city in Alabama), we took questions about asked to share our perspectives on what happened.

The conversations about the tragedy of a tornado are different from the news reporting of death tolls, street closures and relief efforts.

Right after the BBC Interview,  I went on to talk about the situation on John Hockenberry’s The Takeaway. which airs on WNYC here in the United States.

In doing these first two interviews, it’s interesting to note the following:

The importance of being accurate about what the tornado did and didn’t do

Some have reported that the tornado left destruction on the University of Alabama campus.  But, no UA buildings sustained structural damage

Explaining the geographic landscape to  those unfamiliar with West Alabama

The pictures taken along the roads like Veterans Memorial Parkway or McFarland Boulevard might give the impression that the entire town was leveled.  This is not a small town with one traffic light.  As the commerce center for West Alabama with more than 80,000 residents, Tuscaloosa City and County are largely intact except for tree damage.   The parts where the storm hit are heavily damaged or destroyed.

Those of us talking to the rest of the world have to convey these finer points.

Showing that we DID prepare for the possibility, but can never be prepared for the impact of  a tornado

It’s hard to believe, but for those of us who live in this neck of the woods.  we know how to prepare for a possibility of severe weather.  The University did that.  The local meteorologist told us two days in advance that Wednesday would be a rough weather day.  The local schools closed in anticipation of the severe weather warnings.

in a breaking news situation, especially driven by tweets and text messages, it’s important for those of us on the ground to be the source of accurate and reliable information.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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