Thank you to the nearly 190 readers who responded to our poll about your news source during the massive power outage last month.
You shared really valuable information and ideas about how we can better cover and deliver news in such a situation. We found it interesting that the printed newspaper and social media were equally important sources for updates during the outage.
Almost 42 percent of those who responded said that without power and a smartphone, they relied on the newspaper for information. About 32 percent said they turned to Facebook and 22 percent followed Twitter.
“Since all communication, including cell, internet, TV, land line, etc., etc. were out, I went to a local restaurant on occasion and bought a newspaper,” one respondent wrote. “This storm just proved with all of the technology available today, everything was cut off in a split second.”
A few responders even suggested we put out more papers. “There weren’t enough Roanoke Times newspapers to go around.”
The results reaffirm our approach to pushing news out via as many channels as we can. One thing we’ll keep in mind in the future is possibly repurposing some of the online content for print. For example, one person said that we should have printed a list of places where you can get ice. We had something similar on Facebook, where we asked people to post what businesses were open or closed. Maybe next time we could consider also publishing that information in the newspaper.
The poll also revealed that people depended on mobile news sites (40.5 percent) and websites (21.5 percent). Several gave kudos to one of The Roanoke Times community sites, thebotetourtview.com, to social media updates from Botetourt View reporter Cathy Benson and to weather guru Kevin Myatt for keeping them connected.
“Kevin Myatt on Twitter is awesome. Keep him happily tweeting and you’ve done all I can ask.”
Finally, we realized from your feedback that we omitted from the poll a critical source of information during the outage – radio.
Many commented that radio was their primary – and often times only – source when the power was out. Some suggested that radio stations should consider interrupting their regular programming with frequent updates during an outage.
“Please put updates on the radio!!!! I had nothing else. My internet and land line phone was also out. How do expect me to look at anything on facebook, twitter, mobile news site? (I do not have a smart phone),” one responder wrote. “Go back to the radio especially at night when people are more worried and concerned. I listened to the radio as much as I could but basically heard nothing.”
“I used a battery operated radio, but stations were not giving out info but at regular news times….and then info was limited….they should have been updating/repeating info for shelters, etc. every 15 minutes,” another responder said.
To recap, here are some of the key takeaways and opportunities:
- More frequent updates on the radio.
- Better advertise The Roanoke Times text alert system (some reader said they didn’t know we offered them) and consider more text alerts.
- All news organizations should use social media to provide frequent updates.
Do you have other suggestions on ways we can better deliver news and information during similar situations? Please share with us.