The digital media is abuzz with updates on Sandy, the worst storm to hit the US east coast in decades. Recognizing the enormous demand for news on the hurricane, websites are putting out as much as information and news as possible, mostly on the fly. Despite the power outages and the flooding, many news websites are striving to provide minute-to-minute updates.
The New York’s Daily News posted pictures of its flooded newsroom.
@nydailynews PHOTO: This is the Daily News newsroom now. All power down. Three feet of water in the lobby. http://bit.ly/UbTi3U #Sandy
Few computers that still had power just went black in the Daily News newsroom. http://bit.ly/SkKyvM #Sandy
Three media sites including Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Gawker were down due to flooding and power outages. The servers went out when Con Edison, the power provider to New York, shut down the power supply in lower Manhattan. At the time of filing, Gawker and Huffinton Post were still giving error message.
Update: All three sites are back and are working.
@Gawker Gawker is temporarily down because the 57th Street Crane just flooded our servers with sea foam, or something. Back with you shortly.
@HuffingtonPost Due to #Sandy we’re experiencing technical difficulties and are working to be back up as soon as possible.
@BuzzFeed Pushing out stuff through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr while we resolve our site issues, you guys! Follow and like us.
The coverage has also seen unique efforts by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Both suspended the paywalls on their websites as well as apps on Sunday afternoon as people turned to computers, tablets and phones for regular updates on Sandy.
NYT kept its paywall up for Osama Bin Laden’s death coverage but gave full access for Irene hurricane coverage last August.
Raju Narisetti, managing director of the WSJ Digital Network, tweeted “In addition to comprehensive #Sandy coverage available now, all of http://wsj.com will be open to all visitors on Monday October 29.”
Update: Raju Narisetti said regarding the suspension of paywall, “Sandy coverage is always free as is rest of http://wsj.com today.”
@rajunarisetti #Sandy coverage is always free as is rest of http://wsj.com today. Day-by-day @geetiga: till when will the paywall be kept suspended?
The New York Times has installed a webcam at the 51st floor of the New York Times building, which is providing a live feed of images as the storm moves through the city.
Update: NYT uploaded a series of pictures starting Sunday till Tuesday, showing the different hues of the New York sky as the storm passed through the city. You can check them out here.
The offline campaigning just a week before US presidential candidates has taken a hit due to the storm. But the Obama and Romney campaigns are still in action online. The digital campaign activity has not seen any drop due to Sandy. According to a Forbes report, both sides were busy sending their emailers, endorsements and also pushing online attacks. Even online fundraising efforts where not affected by the offline chaos. The Obama campaign asked citizens to donate via Red Cross, “This is a serious storm, but we are going to do what it takes to keep people safe and secure.” You can read the email here.
The Facebook and Twitter pages of both Obama and Romney are requesting their supporters to donate for the needy via Red Cross. The other campaign-related posts are being uploaded from time to time.
Social networks, the water coolers of the digital age, have also got into the act and are generating millions of conversations. According to a blog by Radian6, a social media analytics company, Sandy has generated over 4 million mentions across Facebook and Twitter. Both the networks have become important in keeping in touch with family and friends and disseminating critical information.
Twitter has been at the centre of all the #Sandy mentions since that has been the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter throughout the weekend. Sadly, it also fell prey to a lot of fake news that was circulated by users tweeting about things which did not really happen.
For instance, one user @ComfortablySmug tweeted “Confirmed flooding on NYSE, trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water,” which was refuted by the stock exchange. The same news was carried by the CNN handle as well.
@CNBC BREAKING: NYSE tells @CNBC’s @BobPisani that reports of flooding on the floor of the exchange are not true.
@CNNweather STILL WORKING TO CONFIRM report of flooding at #NYSE. We will clarify on all platforms when more is known. #Sandy
@ComfortablySmug kept on tweeting false news like Governor Cuomo trapped in Manhattan, Con Edison has begun shutting down ALL power in Manhattan. But what was heartening was that all the false reporting and rumors were sifted in time, with confirmations from the official sources.
Update: In the latest turn of events, @ComfortablySmug has issued a public apology via Twitter. He posted a message saying “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology. During a natural disaster that threatened the entire city, I made a series of irresponsible and inaccurate tweets. While some would use the anonymity and instant feedback of socal media as an excuse, I take full responsibility for my actions. I deeply regret any distress or harm they may have caused.”
According to Buzzfeed report, @ComfortablySmug is a hedge fund analyst called Shashank Tripathi. He was a campaign manager for Christopher R Wight, a republican US House candidate from New York. Tripathi resigned last night as the campaign manager according to the apology note.
Everyone who has been following his antics is left wondering on why was he spreading false rumours about the storm. Kashmir Hill of Forbes said in a report, “I think the answer will be an obvious one: he liked the attention and the RTs. This is why trolls do what they do. He wanted to be part of the storm, causing as much chaos online as Sandy was causing in Manhattan.”
Twitter is a truth machine, said John Herrman of Buzzfeed. “Twitter’s capacity to spread false information is more than canceled out by its savage self-correction.”
“Twitter’s capacity to spread false information is more than canceled out by its savage self-correction,” he added. He spoke about how the news of NYSE floors flooding was countered by users uploading pictures of the building totally dry and safe.
Even Facebook was keeping conversations alive. According to a report by Mashable, a technology blog, the 10 most posted words and phrases on Facebook had a connection to the hurricane.
The photo-sharing site Instagram, now a part of Facebook, is the hotbed of every #Sandy in pictures. According to a report by Poynter, the website of the eponymous journalism institute, Instagram users are posting 10 Hurricane Sandy pictures every 10 seconds.
“Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tells us via a spokeswoman: “There are now 10 pictures per second being posted with the hashtag #sandy — most are images of people prepping for the storm and images of scenes outdoors,” an article on the website said. Here are the numbers:
• #sandy has more than 244,000 photos
• #hurricanesandy has more than 144,000 photos
• #frankenstorm has more than 23,000 photos
Believing is seeing but not in this case where a lot of morphed and photo-shopped pictures were shared and going viral on the web. There was one with the Statue of Liberty being hit by big waves, which is a still from the movie The Day After Tomorrow. You can see many other such photos here.
Expectedly, Google launched a crisis map for hurricane Sandy. The map tracks the path of the storm, letting users choose information like current location of the storm, forecast track, shelters, public alerts, traffic conditions and latest advisory.