Last weekend's devastating bushfires in Victoria are another example of how social media and online/multimedia journalism are shaping news consumption and distribution.
Bushfire Emergency is the special coverage produced by ABC online. In fact you could say Aunty is waging war on two online fronts. Click onto ABC News online and you'll see special coverage also devoted to floods in Queensland.
First impressions - perhaps a model for reporting disasters?
Bushfire Emergency opens with a flash slideshow loop of large photographs of the bushfires from contributors. It immediately arrests your attention. A horizontal menu bar also makes navigation quite easy. Scrolling down, the clean layout leads towards text stories plus audio and video clips from embedded players. Among them are some remarkable stories and heart wrenching interviews with survivors.
An interactive map at the bottom of the page embeds more information. One layer marks the death toll - orange pins over towns list the number of fatalities. Other layers let you click through to reports about individual towns and fire fronts.
ABC's Bushfire Emergency may not have full blown multimedia packages, perhaps that's to come, but the ABC's online efforts could well serve as a template or starting point for quickly pulling together media in a coherent way for reporting natural disasters as well as providing clear emergency services information.
On Sunday afternoon (European time), no sooner had I posted a tweet about checking ABC online for bushfire updates, my tweet had been re-tweeted (RT) by a fellow twitterer. Sure enough when I hit search on Tweetdeck #bushfires, and tracking of the word 'bushfires', were well and truly providing a river of human filtered information.
Flicking between ABC online and twitter not only provided a broad overview of the bushfires but link-rich tweets pointed towards stories, images and audio/video on other Australian news sites.
This rough but absolutely in the moment fire-frontline video from Fairfax photographer Nick Moir stood out. As did journalist Gary Hughes' account of his family's narrow escape. Twitter links also took me to some gripping audio clips of callers contacting Melbourne commercial radio station 3AW - a talkback station I've never tuned into.
A retweet from Andrew Davies @awrd of Radio National alerted me to how Melbourne's ABC 774 local radio station was using twitter for fire updates. 774 ABC Melbourne's twitter stream is delivering clear messages/updates/warnings from fire authorities and news reports. Again, another good model to take note of - 'old' media (and yes, the most agile of traditional mass media) harnessing the distribution of social media and helping a community.