Local TV's Hurricane Coverage Blanketed TV, Digital

TV stations across the Southeast rallied on-air, online and on mobile to cover Matthew
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While coastal residents from Florida to Virginia are still reeling from flooding and other damage from Hurricane Matthew, local TV news crews had leveraged the breadth of traditional and digital platforms to keep people safe before, during and after the storm.

Here are some highlights of that coverage:

Related: FCC Expands Post-Hurricane Matthew Status Reports

Hearst Television had crews from six stations in the region involved in coverage, which included live breaking coverage on the Spanish-language Estrella TV digital subchannels the group runs along with their primary stations in Orlando, West Palm Beach and Tampa, Florida.

The coverage was broadcast with live captioning in Spanish, which required Hearst to work with the National Captioning Institute to have a caption writer able to translate the reports in real-time. WESH, Hearst’s NBC affiliate in Orlando, first offered the real-time translation after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Related: Miami Tunes In to Local TV for Storm Reports

WSVN, Sunbeam’s Fox affiliate in Miami, used social platforms extensively in its storm coverage. Chief meteorologist Phil Ferro answered viewers’ personal hurricane-related questions using Twitter’s Q&A feature. Ferro received 1,160 questions within the first 20 minutes. His replies reached 221,907 users, a station spokesperson said.

The station also used Facebook to reach viewers. Hurricane-related Facebook posts reached a total of 17.9 million people, the rep said. The station also used Facebook Live and Periscope to broadcast hurricane advisories and press conferences.

Related: WJXT Jacksonville Boosts Digital for Hurricane Coverage

Tom Wills, a veteran anchor at Graham-owned independent WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., made an impassioned plea for viewers to evacuate on Thursday, when the state was bracing for the worst. Having spent four decades on-air, Wills used his influence via traditional TV to reinforce what, at the time, was the looming danger of Matthew—and spent 2 ½ minutes reading the National Weather Service advisory from his phone.

“I want to talk to you people for just a minute—not as Tom the newsman. We've been together for 40 years, you and I. It's time to take precautions. It's time to protect yourself,” he said. “If you're in one of those evacuation zones, go north. Go west. Get out of here."

Related: Florida TV Stations Brace for Hurricane Matthew's Impact

WPTV, the Scripps-owned NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach, turned its Facebook page into a Hurricane Matthew hub, where the breadth of people with vested interest in the storm congregated. The page served as a source of information for viewers—as well as individuals out of the market concerned about friends and relatives.  Other stakeholders from marine wildlife officials to amateur weather watchers also participated in the exchange.

WTOC Savannah, Georgia’s Matthew coverage got a pretty big shout out from Gov. Nathan Deal. At a press conference, Deal praised the Raycom CBS affiliate for providing crucial information while national organizations focused on the hurricane’s effects on Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. He said he was getting next to no information until his staff suggested streaming WTOC. Government staffers, he said, did not know the state of the Savannah River, which was in danger of flooding, until WTOC told them.

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