At approximately 2 p.m. on March 3, 2019, an F-4 tornado killed 23 people in Lee county, Alabama before continuing on into southwest Georgia. As one of the 12 tornadoes which touched down in central and southeast Alabama that day, it would become the deadliest tornado in the country since April 2011.
Before the week was over, Drs. Chandra Clark and Michael Bruce (Department of Journalism and Creative Media) were on the ground in Beauregard, Alabama interviewing first responders, reporters, and other news crew team members as they held news conferences, interviewed tornado victims and reported from the disaster zone. Clark and Bruce gathered additional video footage from various television stations in Alabama and Georgia including news coverage from that day and weather forecasts leading up to the tornado outbreak.
Clark compiled the videos and edited them together as a tool which can be used in the classroom to help illustrate the teamwork required in covering major weather events. The process starts with the meteorologists’ warnings and the decisions management makes to break into normal programming to alert the audience to the threat of disaster and carries on through producers, anchors, and reporters who manage the live reports and push notifications on social media as the situation unfolds. The completed video (found here) helps students understand the role of reporters in the field when covering disasters.
“It’s only through a one-on-one internship with a reporter covering a disaster or a major breaking news story that students can learn and apply how to multitask communication with managers, producers, promotions and social media teams while they are gathering content to produce for a packaged or live report,” said Clark. “We hope this video helps students have a better understanding of the reporters’ role in the field covering disasters from the reporters and videographers who do it daily.”
Clark’s reputation as an educator and one of the producers of the “First Informers” video series helped in communication with news directors in negotiating footage from their station. The “First Informers” video series has worked in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association to document local broadcasting in several notable severe storm events over the past 8 years. These documentaries include the 2011 EF4 tornado in Tuscaloosa, the 2011 EF5 tornado in Joplin, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.