Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Citizen On-ground Reporting...

September 30, 2008 about 8am...

During the Basin-Indians Fires, the early IC teams were not really fond of citizen reporters. "These blogs" - as we were referred to - "are inaccurate" they were often heard saying.

On this side of the chaparral, it was refreshing... no, absolutely INVIGORATING... when IC Jeanne Pincha-Tulley showed up. 

Chief Jeanne, rather than circling the wagons and telling her PIOs to keep these locals at bay and out of the way, instead reached out to the local channels of communication. 

Among fire officials, the word out about Michael's blog, Cachagua Store, our local-flavor periodically-updated journal, filled with acerbic wit and wisdom was that it was parlous, at best.

Jeanne showed up for a cuppa' on Michael's front porch at the store... kudos to the Chief for behavior  above and beyond the call.

For my part, Jeanne invited me to record an interview with her, updating the status of the fire, every morning, which we made available on KUSP's website.

Now, with the Chalk Wildland Fire, Kate Novoa, Big Sur Kate, has taken the lead with her excellent job of reporting, from her house just 4 miles from the fire.

As of 9:00 am this morning, Inciweb hasn't updated this incident for the past 13 hours. Contrast this with the information on Kate's 'blog, and you'll see the value of well-written, up-close, unopinionated citizen reporting.

Writing a 'blog in service to the community is fun, exciting and satisfying... but, Kate - and I - have "real jobs" and when a 'blog 'takes off" and becomes the "go to" source of incident information, it can take over your life as people begin to count on your service.

Now and then, you get an email or a phone call from someone worried sick about their friends, their family, or just simply, their memories of a beautiful part of the world, now under threat. It's wonderful to know that the information you provide has made a difference... in a sense, it feeds, in part, a 'blogger's addiction... that and an insatiable desire to learn, understand and tell the human side of the tale.

Kate's in the middle of that kind of expectation right now. She deserves every bit of credit and thanks from those of us who have interest, lives and property at stake.

Accurate, well-written, on-scene citizen reporting is part of our information landscape... it's not going away in the near future. On the contrary, it's a "craft" - a developing, volunteer craft - which, in these days of "embedded" journalism and information "spin," can be, and often is, a definitive and vital font of information in a suite of information sources.

Let's welcome such reporting to the party.

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