All eyes were on the East Coast as Hurricane Sandy approached shore this weekend. Fourteen thousand flights were cancelled. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for the first time since 9/11; for the first time since the 1800s, it was closed for two consecutive days for weather-related reasons. New York City’s subway system flooded, along with most of Lower Manhattan and Long Island. A large section of Atlantic City’s boardwalk was torn up and tossed into the ocean. Sandy caused billions of dollars in property damage and lost business. Millions of people were evacuated from cities along the coast; millions lost power, 40 people lost their lives.
Even after all of that, the dissemination of news never seizes to amaze me.
People flocked to the TV and Internet for news. Just like during the days and weeks following 9/11, Sandy dominated TV. CNN had constant coverage and TODAY devoted its whole four-hour show to Sandy on Monday (Al Roker even got blown by the high winds). Even Access Hollywood talked with Al Roker as he stood on the shore in Point Pleasant, NJ.
But as a journalist, the way people took to the Internet was most amazing. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal dropped their infamous paywalls in order to get those who lost power live coverage of the storm. New Yorkers with Twitter accounts gave constant updates to tell loved ones and the world what was happening. The NYT set up a camera on the 51st floor of its building to show a minute-by-minute account of Sandy.
As usual with the Internet, there were some people who misused it. Some people used Photoshop to make fake pictures. Others circulated photos from earlier in the year and said they were from Sandy, such as the one of the soldiers guarding the Tome of the Unknown Soldier. (Yes, the soldiers continued to guard the tomb during the storm, but the actual photo that went viral was from September.) Still others shared false information with the public. Incidents like this shed bad light on the Internet and Twitter, misleading people and creating issues across the board.
But that’s where the future of news is going, folks. Make sure to check facts before you start posting stuff because people will believe what they see posted and then repost it, causing confusion.
And it sucks that “Sandy” is no longer synonymous with the astronaut squirrel from Texas in Spongebob Squarepants in my world.