Print  RSS 
Aug 23

Paul McLane
8/23/2011 8:19:00 PM 

<p><em>Paul McLane is U.S. editor in chief.</em></p> <p>Anyone looking for proof to support NAB's recent arguments that broadcasters&#160;are "first informers," a vital source of information during emergencies that brings to bear a robust infrastructure, should have been standing with me in the parking lot of NewBay Media's Virginia office this afternoon, and driven home with me shortly after.</p> <p>West Coast folks will chuckle at the disruption caused by our little 5.9 temblor today that originated&#160;not all that far&#160;southwest of where I sit. But for many of us on the East Coast, an earthquake that sends shock waves through your body and sounds like a train going across the floor above you is scary indeed. I&#160;thought it was our building's noisy generator being tested again. But after a few seconds it was apparent this was not the case. After a few more seconds, fellow NewBay staffers began hollering to each other across the editorial bullpen. Then someone said "Earthquake," and I looked out my office door to see co-workers dashing for the doors. I had a moment of thinking, "Maybe it's not that bad, maybe I should stay, we have deadlines to hit,"&#160;then I remembered we are in a glass-walled building with a lot of floors above us; I remembered 9/11 too.</p> <p>Fortunately, we're on the first floor of our building in Alexandria. Within moments we were outside. The fire alarms now were shrieking. A moment or two later, people from the upper floors began pouring out and away from the outer walls, just in case, into the sunshine.</p> <p>That's when it became apparent, again, how important broadcasters are to us. It was no more than a minute or two after I was out the door. People stood around me in the afternoon sun trying to make phone calls and&#160;found that they couldn't get through to loved ones, presumably due to heavy traffic. But we had WiFi. And in clusters, people near me were doing two things:&#160;They were listening to WTOP, our local news biggie, via their smartphones; and they were checking social media to see what friends had to say. A colleague with TV Technology turned to me, gestured with his smartphone, and said, "What do people do in emergencies? They listen to radio, even if it's over a smartphone."</p> <p>Yep. There was WTOP, already informing us of the strength of the quake, confirming what it was we'd felt and, far more important to me, what we HADN'T felt ... meaning, a bomb or some other kind of terrorist attack. The reports of people feeling the quake from as far away as New England and the Southwest were actually comforting. Because I&#160;knew in a moment that we weren't going through 9/11 again.</p> <p>I thought to myself, too, that no social network could piece together the big picture of what was going on in our metropolitan area, like WTOP&#160;was doing literally within seconds and minutes. Further, I know that even if our WiFi had failed and all Internet access had gone down, we would still have access to radio stations via our car radios. And I know from RW's own reporting how substantial WTOP's backup facilities are.</p> <p>So that was good. But the reports said that the quake had centered not far from Charlottesville.&#160;I&#160;have family there. Now I was worried about them.</p> <p>We were able to get back into the office building, and I dashed off a first email; but almost immediately the fire alarms went off again. Our VP Carmel King told us all hurriedly to leave, not knowing if this second alarm was an anomaly or not. (I now suspect it was from a reported aftershock.) The staff grabbed their cars and headed out.</p> <p>So very quickly I&#160;was stuck in traffic. I had no ready access to a landline or PC. I tried my phone, to call my family. No calls would go through. I had a few texts, so messaging was at least sporadic, but Charlottesville was out of touch.</p> <p>What did I do?&#160;I turned on WTOP. I learned that thousands of others in the Washington area were doing the same thing I&#160;was. The information helped me make decisions to fight my way home. But more important, again, was what the station was NOT&#160;reporting. As the news station shared information about relatively mild damage in Washington, and phone calls about falling plates in Mineral, Va., what they were NOT reporting was anything about problems in Charlottesville, which I knew they would quickly have. I also felt like I was listening to friends whose job it was to help me through all this.</p> <p>Of course, I wasn't fully satisfied until I made contact with my family. That took a couple of hours before I knew that my peeps in Virginia as well as points north were accounted for. But clearly, even in this relatively mild emergency, the phone infrastructure was overloaded.</p> <p>I have worked in radio, and radio news. I know its power. But I was freshly grateful for the service that radio gave me today. And I was struck by how accurate is the argument that in emergencies, the broadcast infrastructure is more robust than other communication networks that Americans are also coming to rely on.</p> <p>&#160;</p>


Thank you for your comment. Please note that posts are reviewed for suitability and may not appear until the next business day.


December 2016 (1)
November 2016 (5)
October 2016 (7)
September 2016 (4)
August 2016 (6)
July 2016 (5)
June 2016 (3)
May 2016 (4)
April 2016 (3)
March 2016 (6)
February 2016 (4)
January 2016 (6)
December 2015 (7)
November 2015 (6)
October 2015 (11)
September 2015 (7)
August 2015 (8)
July 2015 (10)
June 2015 (14)
May 2015 (5)
April 2015 (6)
March 2015 (6)
February 2015 (4)
January 2015 (5)
December 2014 (7)
November 2014 (6)
October 2014 (10)
September 2014 (11)
August 2014 (14)
July 2014 (4)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (5)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (6)
February 2014 (7)
January 2014 (8)
December 2013 (9)
November 2013 (11)
October 2013 (9)
September 2013 (6)
August 2013 (5)
July 2013 (1)
June 2013 (4)
May 2013 (3)
April 2013 (2)
March 2013 (8)
February 2013 (8)
January 2013 (7)
December 2012 (3)
November 2012 (4)
October 2012 (7)
September 2012 (10)
August 2012 (4)
July 2012 (7)
June 2012 (4)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (10)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (6)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (5)
October 2011 (8)
September 2011 (9)
August 2011 (10)
July 2011 (6)
June 2011 (5)
May 2011 (7)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (9)
February 2011 (6)
January 2011 (7)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (3)
October 2010 (6)
September 2010 (10)
August 2010 (8)
July 2010 (7)
June 2010 (5)
May 2010 (5)
April 2010 (11)
March 2010 (7)
February 2010 (5)
January 2010 (4)
December 2009 (2)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (5)
September 2009 (6)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (3)
June 2009 (15)
May 2009 (8)
April 2009 (6)
March 2009 (2)
February 2009 (2)
January 2009 (1)
December 2008 (5)