Covering the news rarely is easy, but staying on top of current events during a disaster can be even harder. The recent historical deep freeze that gripped Texas and left millions without power, heat and water for days is a prime example.
Yet somehow, the team here at LOCAL Community News didn’t miss a beat and continued to post news stories to our website and breaking-news bulletins to our social-media feed.
Much of the credit belongs to reporter Edmond Ortiz, who never seems to sleep, and to our online coordinator Florence Edwards. No matter what nature threw at us, we were determined not to let a disaster — even one of this magnitude — interrupt service to our readers.
As a longtime police reporter, I’ve covered a lot of catastrophes, from plane crashes to hurricanes, with the understanding that news never sleeps. Journalists don’t have a choice when a calamity strikes; we’re among the first to head into the fray.
Just like first responders, we are delivering an essential service. In this case it’s the news. During a catastrophe, people — whether they want to admit it or not — are depending on a flow of reliable information, just as much as they depend on rescue services, linemen and relief workers.
The news media provides trustworthy and timely data so folks can make decisions affecting the preservation of life and property for themselves and their families.
Think about it — where would you have been during the latest hardship if the media hadn’t been telling you to boil water, or warning you about coming blackouts? What about weather updates? You can argue the government provides similar services, but more people pay attention to their news feeds, the radio and television during such trying times, not bureaucratic online offerings.
That’s also why duplicates of those bulletins on government sites are sent to newsrooms. Officials need the media’s help disseminating the warnings, alerts and updates because our audience is bigger.
The U.S. Postal Service has a motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
In many ways, that epithet applies to the news media, too.
There’s another phrase I like to quote by journalist Rod Dreher, and this also summarizes the news-gathering profession: “There are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away — cops, firemen and reporters.”
We feel a drive to inform, a passion to serve the information needs of our community. During the snowstorm, many of us in the news profession experienced the same problems as the rest of you — no power, no water, no heat. We had the same fears and apprehensions, and we worked just as hard as anyone else to keep our families safe and warm.
But, we also realize information is as much a precious resource as firewood or clean water. Keeping people informed during a disaster is just as important to us as getting the power back on.
After all, the light of knowledge pushes back the darkness.