Wicked Weather

When it comes to covering extreme and treacherous weather, this is the time for citizen journalists to shine. Think about that clip you last saw on the news of torrential downpours and flooding in the streets. Or maybe it was the video of a gloomy sky with a violent tornado in the midst. No matter what the event is, at one point and time, you are bound to see a first hand video of the scene recorded by citizen journalists.

In fact, when weather tragedies occur, news organizations often turn to social media first. If the area is too dangerous for even a reporter to make it there, then this is when citizen journalism comes into play and great storytelling emerges.


Photo Courtesy: Fox News U Report

Rewinding back to the 2013 Oklahoma tornado disaster, citizen eyewitnesses were the first to get any kind of video out before any professional journalists made it to the scene. The videos were posted on YouTube and spread across social media, quickly becoming viral.

According to the Pew Research Center, seven of the ten tornado videos, produced by citizen journalists, made it to the top viewed list. This video had a groundbreaking number of 600,000 views within a matter of hours.


Photo courtesy: The aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami (photo: Louis Cryer), Glasgow airport attack (photo: Richard Grey) and the Tavistock Square bomb (photo: Toby Mason)

Moving across the globe, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was one of the deadliest disasters that rocked Southeast Asia. The images and videos of the devastation were truly tragic and remarkable. Those who were there were not only able to capture the chaotic scene, but they were able to rely information to both victims and the rest of the world through social media. This helped many people re-unite with their family members, or unfortunately, let them know of their passing. Tourists who were visiting the country were able to send out videos of the tsunami as it was unfolding before their eyes.

However, it doesn’t always have to involve breaking news for the public to become involved. Most television stations today welcome viewer submitted photos of the weather. They will often show them during the newscasts or post them to their social media accounts. Almost all stations, just like WPXI’s, have a page dedicated to viewer submitted content.

But while so called ‘storm chasers’ can no doubt be beneficial, this begs the questions as to whether people are putting their lives at risk to grab content during severe weather? Just because you post video of a twister of tornado barreling at you, does that mean you should really be out there doing this?

Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer to that question. First hand accounts provide no better visuals during breaking news. It’s important that news organizations continue to rely on citizen journalism during these occasions. However, it’s also important for citizen journalists to realize that they do not need to put their life on the line in order to get that perfect shot.

Now it’s your guys turn? Do you like seeing viewer’s weather photos and videos during newscasts? Should citizen journalists take the spotlight when it comes to severe weather? Or are too may people putting themselves in danger? Let me know what you think!



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