Last night's events really brought home to me how much we A) rely on the mainstream news media, and B) shouldn't. In this case, it could literally have been a life-or-death issue. Everyone who relies solely on the mainstream news media to alert them to grave threats would have been on the wrong side of the equation.
7.7 earthquake and tsunami: Twitter wins, news media FAILS
Who would have thought Twitter could be so useful and valuable in a crisis?
And mind you, the news outlets had almost two hours between the initial earthquake to the time when the tsunami began to it. Even with two hours of warning and the NOAA alert system, most news outlets didn't get around to warning the public until the next morning.
Meanwhile, the Twitterverse was on top of this story from the initial earthquake on. It's hard to believe something as ridiculous as Twitter could serve such a valuable purpose, but it's true.
Last night around 8 p.m., an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck in shallow water off the Queen Charlotte Islands. The initial earthquake caused very little damage, mostly because it was so far from any population centers. But its location triggered a tsunami warning for Alaska and British Columbia which was later extended to the Washington and Oregon coast.
Within minutes of the earthquake, I received an alert email from NOAA's automated tsunami warning center. For several hours, this email (and the updates which followed) were my ONLY official source of information about the events. I live in a tsunami risk area not far from the British Columbian border, so this tsunami scare was, as they say, relevant to my interests.
Throughout the night, television was useless. Neither the local nor national news channels had a thing to say about either the earthquake or the impending tsunami. The same was true of radio. I flipped between stations, checking local news radio, NPR affiliates, and CBC radio for the Vancouver area (where the warning was being raised.)
Websites also proved to be essentially useless. At least they were carrying information about the tsunami, but these sites all went down under the crippling load. You would think they would prepare for traffic spikes, given that it's literally a life-or-death kind of thing.
Twitter proved to be the only source of information. Granted, most of it was just people passing on the original tsunami warning. But throughout the night I picked up a lot of valuable information.
Need I point out, there actually WAS a tsunami. Granted it was only a few inches high in most locations. We got lucky this time. I could just as easily have been 20 feet high, and only those who happened to be checking their email at just the right time (like me) would have survived.
Thanks for nothing, mainstream media! I guess you really are as lame as the Republicans keep saying.