3 at 3: The most creative ways media is covering the Illinois tornadoes

March 1, 2012

Newsmedia is often criticized for being overly hysterical about disaster coverage. But as we've seen over the past 24 hours with coverage of the tornadoes in Southern Illinois that have devastated the region, those lovely advances of modern technology have also allowed all sorts of outlets to do amazing work. Photos and videos, often deciminated on Twitter, have brought the reality of these tragedies to people in a way that the cover of the newspaper for just one morning really couldn't. Here are three news outlets that have done moving coverage of the tornadoes that have really stretched the boundaries of how we tell stories:

1. The Chicago Tribune homepage with embedded video. When you're in news, you have to read a lot of news, which means you have to read a lot of your competitor's work. This obviously means that we follow the work of our colleagues at the Chicago Tribune closely. But this tornado story prompted our EP of talk programming, Justin Kaufmann, to say he wasn't sure he'd ever seen the Trib embed a video in the main block on their homepage before this story. They're probably taking a tip from the New York Times, but when it's a good idea, go with it.

2. A devoted section page to full coverage by the Harrisburg Daily Register. Local news often gets a bad reputation -- especially local television. But what we see from the Harrisburg Daily Register is that they have basically created an online tornado central, featuring editorials, links to other local publications, video and photos that they have produced, as well as multimedia from national sources and user-submitted content.

3. Twitter, always Twitter. As we've seen before, Twitter has been an amazing tool for reporters on the go to report on the detailed, real-life devastation of the disaster stories they cover. The tornadoes have been no exception; New York Times reporter Monica Davey wrote a whole story about the disaster, but then flushed it out by tweeting a personal photo she'd taken seconds before of the destruction. And Kentucky meterologist Tom Ackerman was one of several who sent out a screenshot of the local newsbroadcast's list of confirmed tornadoes to come.

It's the work of these people on the ground -- and shoutout to the web people working alongside them -- that helps us empathize with these tragedies in a way we just couldn't have before. We might know something is happening, but its this work that makes us understand.