During Texas State University’s Mass Communication week, guest speakers say that you have to always be prepared to cover a crisis. A collection of 5 speakers gathered yesterday afternoon to share their experience in crisis coverage and explain the best strategies for covering them. Among the 5 speakers was San Marcos Director of Communications Kristi Wyatt, Texas State Social Media Coordinator Jon-Stephen Stansel, Hays Free Press Sports Editor Moises Leos III, KTSW News Reporter Matthew Hamill and University Star Editor-in-Chief Kelsey Bradshaw.
The panel began with the speakers sharing their experience with the most recent major crisis coverage, the Memorial Day floods. KTSW News Reporter Matthew Hamill explained how in extreme situations such as a flood event, you don’t have all the resources you need. This particular event happened at the beginning of the summer when most of the KTSW reporters were away from San Marcos and the station had to ‘throw people on the air’.
“In times of these extreme situations, you don’t get the luxury of having a television or internet, so people tune in with their radio. If you’re a Journalist in this kind of situation, this is your gold rush. It’s your opportunity to shine.”
The San Marcos area was heavily dependent on the radio station for constant updates after the floods had hit. Kelsey Bradshaw also says that the University Star took on a “weird” role, where according to Bradshaw, hundreds of people began to rely on them for new information.
“With this, I felt like we had all eyes on us but we didn’t want to publish the wrong information so we had to be patient and wait for the city to release information.”
Moises Leos reflected on the magnitude of the flood and said that ‘he had never seen something so powerful as this event’. He wishes he would have been more prepared and says that as a Journalist you should always have a ‘go-bag’ packed with an extra pair of clothes, hygiene materials and an extra charger for your phone.
Jon-Stephen Stansel said that the Texas State community is really big on social media and that he even stays updated on the feed from Yik Yak because the news circulates through every network. He says that social media’s value also goes up during crisis situations because of the possibility of TV stations getting knocked off the air.
Kristi Wyatt said that the Memorial Day flood was incredible and her phone was constantly going off. She says that she worked for 48 hours straight and still had her phone going off non-stop after that time frame. The rings were from numerous citizens who needed to know the most recent updates on the flood. She said she stopped and realized that though she was tired, she was affecting someone’s life by helping them avoid danger and advised the class to remember that.
Both Hamill and Bradshaw stated that this event was not something that the community would ever completely move on from. It was something that devastated thousands of people and the victims are only just beginning to recover. Hamill explained how critical this event was to the community.
“It’s not something that can be forgotten. It’s an evolving story from what happened back in May.”
The most valuable lesson that the guest speakers shared with the class is that Journalists have to be at their very best in crisis situations and be sensitive to the devastation of the event; be understanding of your sources and respect them. After all, the victims are the ones losing their world and journalists are the ones encountering their own.