With the death toll in Myanmar rising following the cyclone that devastated the area, the NY Times used its blog, ‘The Lede’, to put out the call for help covering the disaster. They asked for first-hand accounts, photos and even have a submission form for video.
Twelve hours later they had vivid descriptions of the devastation and pictures to accentuate those descriptions. Below is an account from Henry Webb, a lawyer from the U.S. that teaches in Vietnam:
About 3 a.m., when we were about 40 or 50 miles outside of Yangon, we started seeing the first trees and signs that had been blown down. (I did not sleep during the taxi ride — the Spanish couple slept off and on and I was afraid that if I went to sleep the driver might fall asleep as well — despite the fact that he was chugging Red Bull and coffee throughout the night.)
It took about two hours to cover those remaining 40 or 50 miles to the airport, and it was only in those last two hours — between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. — that we began to appreciate the amount of devastation wrought by the cyclone. There were long stretches where nearly every tree along both sides of the road had been blown down, split into, uprooted, etc.
Almost all of the billboards were shredded, and most other signs had been either torn apart or blown down, and I saw several street signs — like stop signs or yield signs (the writing was in Burmese script so I don’t know what they actually said) — that had literally had their metal poles bent in half by the force of the winds. Many streetlights were also blown down. Many of the buildings had been damaged, and there was wind-blown debris everywhere.
| MORE |
This is the sort of “open-source” journalism that I think is going to push online content into the future. On the smaller scale news organizations could cover everything from city council meetings to softball games in the same manner, by allowing citizens to watch, report and file small pieces about what they see.
The eroding of the sense of community newspapers are supposed to build could perhaps be saved by again allowing citizens to be a part of the news process. No longer should they feel they are just being fed the news but that they are contributing to the overall process of distributing the news and spreading information.
This doesn’t meant that journalists have to feel like they are obsolete or that citizens are going to take over their paper. It simply means that by allowing the people to have an avenue to contribute then we have more eyes and ears on the streets. We still act as the filterers, the organizers and the distributors of the news.
We’ll have to wait and see how the NY Times and other organizations continue to cover this story and what they do with the content they get.