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Earthquake News and Tech

I woke up with a jolt this morning, not produced by the earthquake but by this realization that I had too much sleep. It was about 3 a.m. Pacific time, and I turned on the news. Word was just reaching U.S. news outlets that there was an incredibly devastating earthquake off the coast of Japan. It's news that I've been following ever since I woke up, first with CNN, then with my local news channels here in San Diego.

When I had to start work this morning, I gravitated to the news feeds online, and that's where I could get more news than I could handle. Besides the news sites, there's news from several sources coming from Facebook and Twitter. News travels fast, as does rumor and conjecture, especially with social media in the mix.

I found the live feed from Katz Ueno at http://YokosoNews.com/live/ particularly newsworthy. (A tip of the cap to @JoseBucud, btw.) Katz had been on for about 10 hours straight since the big quake hit. He continued to check the various Japan-based news feeds, local and national, and simultaneously read tweets, many of them inquiries asking him to check the veracity of reports streaming in from around the world's news sources.

Tweets from French viewers would ask, for example, how true were local French news reporting of missing trains. Katz would check many of the local feeds, with updates. (The news, as he knew it at the time, was that there were no trains missing. Pretty much, all trains and subways across the country stopped for hours.) Another, from Australia, asked about the aquarium in Sendai, which is the nearest city to the epicenter, while others were mainly asking about family members.

Katz did continually remind viewers that he was checking local reports, and that those reports, even though they originated near the source, were also prone to mistakes. Katz heard some urgency in the NHK news of a major 6+ jolt in Nagano, which is located about three hours southeast of Sendai. Minutes later, I noticed feeds from Business Insider and some other lesser known folks I'm following on Twitter, tweeting about that incident. That jolt turned out to be true -- he confirmed it with a ground report coming from TBS, but damage assessments on the ground were still scarce.

Social media in most aspects of life seem to be distractions to most folks, but these apps do prove themselves in times like these.

Posted by Michael Domingo on 03/11/2011 at 11:59 AM

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