It has, without doubt, been one hell of a long morning. As most people are now aware, an Earthquake hit most of England in the early hours of the morning of February 27th. Around 4.7 on the Richter scale, it was not only a rare occurrence but the biggest of its kind for around 24 years. For some, it was their first experience of what tremors are and can do. For myself, it was only the second yet no less frightening once the realisation kicks in. After running into the next room to make sure that my Mom and the dog were ok, I sat back down at my computer and contemplated my next move. It didn’t take long to figure. I did exactly what any other decent human being would do.

I went onto Twitter.

The following is an insight into how I suddenly became fascinated with online journalism.

The first twitter comment that I came across was from fellow Environmental News Online reporter Stephen Nunes confirming the tremors and posting a link to the USGS.gov website featuring their official report on what took place. I couldn’t find anyone else online at that point to cover the story, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and made the call to stay up all night and write a blog about it.

For the next hour, I wore out the F5 button on my keyboard keeping up to date with the coverage on BBC Online and Sky News.In an effort to keep myself grounded, I logged on to one of my favourite online forums to see what members of the site were saying. After all, they weren’t journalists, but normal everyday civilians sharing their immediate thoughts and feelings. As expected, a thread was already in progress with countless replies ongoing as I skimmed through page after page. At this point, I noticed the time; it had just gone 3am. I signed into my e-mail browser and sent a couple of e-mails out to selected websites in an attempt at gaining a few comments to be able to use, but who would be up at this time of night? The waiting game wasn’t an option at this point. I was in full journalism mode. Do I sacrifice a story in order to wait for hours on end just to obtain a few words to validate my piece? Do I balls. I went straight to WordPress.com and searched in their tag section for ‘Earthquakes’. Twittering my actions as I went along, I found a series of blogs from people across the country who, like me, sought an immediate voice to express the experience. Noting the few posters who had clearly stated that this was their first ever earthquake, I ran with it and used a couple of quotes to give the story a new spin. A quick visit to Flickr gave me the last vital piece needed: a picture. There was only one, of a couple sitting on a sofa watching the coverage on TV. It would do nothing on it’s own, so I slapped on a caption and upon reading it through, was pleased with my choice. It was a visual insight into the public reaction. People often say that journalism is untrustworthy, or unable to connect with people because of it’s framed view of what is a wider world. Those skeptics simply don’t understand. That one picture, in the context of the story, spoke more to me than any image of a crack in the ground, and the quotes used were from real people, sharing their viewpoint. If that isn’t a connection between news and the people it affects, I don’t know what is.

The finished article, for those interested, can be read here: https://localengovernment.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/late-night-earthquake-rumbles-england/, and here: http://environmentalnewsonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43&Itemid=55

A review of the story can also be seen here: http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2008/02/27/student-journalists-cover-the-uk-earthquake/

It might sound a little boring to some, but I will be perfectly honest: The adrenaline rush was amazing. At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, pretentious and just downright geeky, the feeling of rushing around to collect information, images and opinions in order to pick out the key elements and piece together an original and informative (and factually accurate) story as quickly as possible was satisfying as anything could be. Maybe it’s a little sad to have been proud of myself as I climbed into bed at 6am this morning, but for the first time, I actually found myself starting to understand and appreciate online journalism a lot more. The only concern now is to keep up the momentum. Earthquakes don’t happen every day. Probably with good reason too.

I wouldn’t want to be the only one cheering for another.

Advertisements