Saturday, October 07, 2006

Doc Searls has a piece up here from Linux Journal

He has fab ideas regarding a concept he has called "River of News" for coverage of disasters, and makes strong points about the recent lack of any significant local coverage of The Day Fire.

Read an excerpt here, and click red title above for the whole piece...

Let's do for news what we did for software

There have always been problems with distributing urgent public safety information. These problems show up, over and over, with every hurricane, tornado, flood and wildfire. At this moment in history, problems fall in three areas of responsibility (and, for that matter, responsiveness):

  1. The old official channels (radio, TV, newspapers) are scaling back on live news coverage (or on news coverage, period)
  2. The new official channels (web sites and services, "reverse 911") are still, as we've been saying since 1995, "under construction".
  3. The new unofficial channels (cell phones, blogs, RSS feeds, phone trees) are still no substitute for the Real Thing, whatever it will become.

Lately I've been thinking about some simple hacks we can do in #3 that will give some needed assistance to #s 1 and 2 as well.

What got me thinking was the Day Fire, which lasted almost a month. What began as a trash fire ended as the 5th largest wildfire in California history. By the time it was contained early this week, the Day Fire covered 162,702 acres , or about 250 square miles — a total that exceeds the dimensions of Chicago. In the middle of its last week, the Day Fire was fought by nearly five thousand people, armed with 226 engines, 45 'dozers, 41 water tenders, 28 helicopters, 9 helitankers and more than 10 air tankers. Its cost so far have exceeded $70 million. As of yesterday (October 6), 831 personnel remain assigned to the fire. (Although it's contained, the fire is not yet out.)

Yet news coverage of the Day Fire was notably minimal — even as rivers of dark smoke flowed over the heads of millions, and ash fell like snow. Why?




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