2. Natural Disasters: Sharing Emergency Information: 2008 Review
1. Mumbai attacks
2. Natural disasters: Emergency info
3. SF Olympic torch relay protests
4. Obama and “Bittergate”
5. Protests at Republican Convention
6. Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing crisis info
7. CNN’s news wire plans
8. Mob rule: Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW
9. Twitter gets student out of Egypt jail
10. Fake report on Steve Jobs heart attack
2008 saw an explosion in the ways we gather, share and consume news. In recognition of this, NowPublic looks back at the 10 most important moments of the year in user-generated news. This is one of them.
From the US to China and Myanmar, participatory media sources showed their value as a means of getting breaking news and information out when natural disasters struck.
While reports of the earthquake in China’s Sichuan province quickly emerged through Chinese language sources such as instant messaging service QQ.com, it took longer to reach the English-speaking world. Well-known technology blogger Robert Scoble got the news out through his Twitter feed (before the USGS website, he noted) and others helped translate messages for a developing picture of the quake.
Also in May, it took some time for news to emerge from Myanmar about the full extent of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. But reports by citizens caught up in the cyclone revealed what turned out to be the worst natural disaster in the country’s history and a serious humanitarian crisis.
2008’s hurricane season was particularly deadly, especially for Haiti which suffered four destructive storms in quick succession.
The approach of Hurricane Gustav raised the specter of the devastating Katrina as it approached the US, and concerned communities came together in the Gustav Information Center on Ning to share alerts and information.
NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin led hundreds of volunteers in compiling the information center, which included a wiki, “Voices of Gustav” - testimony from people who had been displaced, and Twitter feeds for latest weather and blog reports. A variety of other news aggregators, alert services and webcams were also set up. Fortunately the storm weakened.
November’s brush fires in California saw authorities like the LA Fire Department co-opting services such as Twitter to share latest information about the path of the blaze. Blogs like LAist provided information about evacuations and traffic routes.