One minute last night I was settling in and musing about my tough TV choices -- Game 3 of the Bulls-Heat series or the Cubs-Red Sox game on Sunday Night Baseball.

The next I was scrolling through my social media feeds and struck by the chatter of the deadly tornado that had just wiped out a swath of Joplin. I turned on the Weather Channel and could hardly turn away. ... In those first moments, my thoughts also turned to my brother and his family who live not far from Joplin. Just then he tweeted this.

I was in awe and disbelief. The images and stories coming from Joplin were unbelievable. 

Home with Phoebe today -- she has strep throat again, which is a whole other story -- I spent much of the morning watching the news coverage, clicking through photos popping up online and keeping tabs on the relief efforts our own community is organizing.

The numbers are staggering.
116 dead.
More than 1,150 people injured.
The deadliest tornado since 1947.
It stretched three quarters of a mile wide.
More than 2,000 structures were damaged.
Debris was thrown 20,000 feet into the sky.

Then there's this chilling and horrific video that's making the rounds today depicting people taking cover inside a gas station. ... Here's another one of the storm forming.

* * *
Now for the journalism-critique portion of this post ...

Since I'd been watching the coverage of the local ABC affiliate, and was fairly impressed, I decided to stick with ABC News for the national broadcast tonight.

But I was immediately struck by their over-the-top title for the broadcast: "Direct hit: An American tragedy in Joplin." ... Seriously? It's a terrible situation for sure. But an American tragedy? No. ... 9/11, JFK's assassination -- those are American tragedies. ... The rest of the broadcast seemed thrown together, as if the reporters themselves were so overwhelmed with the devastation that they didn't know where to start. ABC also included video footage and photos that had been circulated and widely viewed on the Internet all day.

Then I watched the NBC Nightly News and was promptly reminded why NBC owns the top network broadcast, and why I thoroughly appreciate that team's journalistic work every single night. The NBC broadcast was far more engaging and heartfelt, hitting the meat of the big story along with fresh bits mixed in. They had numbers, some amazing photography, gripping interviews -- and a chat with the Gov.

ABC capped its broadcast with a piece about the Joplin high school commencement ceremony that played out just before the tornado struck. The story had loads of potential, but it was only a round-up of the broader story laced with some of the inspirational commencement season tidbits. ... NBC instead went to the destroyed high school and included interviews with the principal and freshly-minted graduates, which made for a far more compelling story. 

(5.30.2011 -- Updated to include good reads and more thoughts from the week)

As this week has continued, the severe storm warnings and weather alerts ... just ... keep ... coming. We've been anxiously watching the television and radar updates at night. Another tornado hit Sedalia Wednesday, and the video of this truck being blown apart is the latest to wow us ...

Our university has reached out to the university and colleagues in Joplin. We also have partnerships with that university. My heart broke for one woman as I watched Brian Williams interview her about losing her husband in the storm -- it turns out she was one of our graduate students.

Scanning the list of deceased, and seeing their ages, is saddening.

Stories from the Joplin tornado ...
a Joplin survivors spin tales of dread, loss after tornado
a Storm’s toll shows on the faces of Joplin’s residents
a In TV Crew’s Hunt for Twisters, More Than They Bargained For
a In Storm’s Aftermath, One Family Salvages What It Can
a Joplin storm contained a rare multivortex tornado
a Joplin begins sorting through the big tasks ahead
a Tornadoes dip, dash over an anxious region
a Tornado couldn’t rip away the goodness
a Joplin Faces Sad Task of Clearing the Rubble
a When Everything Is Gone, Including a Sense of Direction
a Once-Stately Trees Tell a Tale of Destruction in Joplin

The Photos ... These are amazing.
a St. Louis Post-Dispatch
a The New York Times: Holding Out Hope in Missouri
a The New York Times: Panoramas of Joplin Before and After the Tornado
a Shocking before and after images reveal how giant tornado ripped apart Joplin's city landmarks
a The New York Times: Aerial Photographs of Joplin Before and After the Tornado
a Los Angeles Times: Satellite images of Joplin, Mo., before and after the tornado

More good reads ...
a Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster ... Looks like we're a lot safer now than we were near Chi-Town.
a Researchers see a pattern in rise of deadly tornadoes
a Storm season on deadly path; Obama to visit Joplin
a The Facts (and Fiction) of Tornadoes

No comments: