LMA-members in Texas, Louisiana go all out to bring audience critical information during Hurricane Harvey

By David Arkin, Local Media Association

News organizations whose staffs are facing personal danger and disaster because of Hurricane Harvey have worked around the clock to produce critical information.

More than a half dozen Local Media Association members throughout Texas and Louisiana have been directly in Harvey’s path. In many cases the communities they serve have been devastated by the storm as extreme flooding and tornadoes have impacted their towns. The LMA has established a fund to assist employees of the associations’s members that are impacted. You can donate here.

KPRC Channel 2 in Houston had their staff reporting from boats, bridges, covering evacuations and live-streaming all of it.

The station’s managing editor Matt Aufdenspring said a Tweet from a senior citizens home showing that residents were in waist-deep water  helped save lives. KPRC said the Tweet went viral and aid was quickly sent.

The station — owned by Graham Media — was able to bring meteorologists from Detroit, San
Antonio, Orlando and Jacksonville into Houston to help with coverage.

“This unprecedented event amplifies the critical importance of local news,” said Emily L. Barr, President & CEO, Graham Media Group. “Our people are living in and covering their hometowns, providing life-saving information, around the clock, on all platforms and  sharing all of this with friends, family and neighbors. Their guidance and expertise in weather prediction, safety information, traffic and evacuation routes and shelter and food services are helping save lives — literally alerting first responders to people in need of rescue, both on-air and online. This is their town. They know it, they understand it and they love and care about it. This is what local news does.”

At the Victoria, Texas Advocate, newsroom staff stayed — and slept — at the paper throughout the weekend. The Advocate has created dozens and dozens of stories each day, along with very impressive multimedia.

Dan Easton, publisher of the Advocate said in an email late on Tuesday night to the LMA Board of Directors, which he serves on, that the paper was incredibly luckily. They didn’t get all of the rain forecasted. He said surrounding areas were not as lucky.

“Still, sustained winds of 70+mph for 16 hours take a toll,” he wrote.

 Easton said he was so impressed with his newsroom’s efforts.
“Blown away by heroism of our newsroom,” he wrote. ” But the unsung heroes are ops staff who kept it all going with excellent planning and tremendous execution.  Never lost computer power or connectivity at office.”

Poynter profiled the newsroom’s efforts and struggles through the storm.

Easton noted that the cafeteria in their building is feeding “what seems like half of town.” He said other displaced  businesses were staying at the paper.

“It’s controlled chaos and an incredible display of the enduring human spirit all mixed together under one roof,” he wrote.

At Community Impact Newspaper, a group of 22 monthly newspapers with papers in Austin, Dallas and Houston, blanketed their readers with coverage in the 10 markets in Houston where they own papers.

Their hyper-local coverage provided nearly neighborhood-level street closures and rain total information.

“Our hyperlocal focus has situated us perfectly to provide life-saving information to Greater Houston area readers, all while dealing personally with evacuations and power outages,” said Joe Lanane, executive editor, Community Impact.

Their partnership with ABC 13 in Houston helped provide a range of content beneficial to their overall audience.

Here is a roundup of some of the terrific work LMA-member organizations in Texas and eastern Louisiana produced:

Missing man reunited during live report

On KPRC in Houston, a woman spotted her brother during live coverage. The reporter was able to talk to the man and help reunite the two. Throughout the storm, there have been numerous examples of reporters helping those who are stranded or need help.

Telling the story through visuals

The Victoria Advocate utilized its readers to share the damage they were experiencing in this powerful collection of photos. Here is one:

The Advocate produced a variety of heart-wrenching videos. This one featured a resident in Bayside, Texas who rode the storm out in his home. Incredible journalism. This video from the Advocate tours Rockport in the aftermath.

TV station taking donations during phone bank

KPRC in Houston on Wednesday and Thursday brought in volunteers to help take donations as part of an all-day phone drive. It’s one thing to tell people how to give but it’s a totally different situation to actually drive donations.

Newspaper group alerts readers to filing deadline

For those who need to file insurance claims, the deadline to do so is Friday in order to avoid implications from a new law in Texas. This sort of useful journalism from Community Impact Newspaper is critical for those whose homes were damaged.

The depth of coverage is amazing

The number of stories and videos created over the length of the storm is just amazing. KRIS in Corpus Christi, Texas, showcased their offering on this page which featured all of their coverage. A great archivable resource.

Infographics tell the story, too

KPRC used a host of infographics to tell the story, including this one on the amount of rain Houston received and this one on how Harvey stacked up to other storms.

Many news companies provide guidance on how to give

Community Impact Newspaper created a list-based story on ways to give and KATC in Acadia, La., offered a deep list on how to help.

Debunk those fake stories

There were a host of fake stories posted during the storm and KPRC in Houston did a great job helping readers know what’s real and not in this gallery.

Interesting feature on Cajun Navy volunteers

Cajun Navy volunteers came into the news as they were shot at during their efforts. This feature from 12 News in Beaumont, Texas, looks at how old you have to be to be able to join the group.

Using the e-edition when getting out the paper is difficult

The American Press in Lake Charles, La., announced they would not be able to print a newspaper on Wednesday but instead their e-edition would be open to all.

Good deeds seen throughout

This is one of many humanitarian efforts seen, a local restaurant in Victoria, Texas, offering hot meals and a place to stay, reported by a TV station there.