Friday, July 14, 2006

Westchester Recovers From F2 Twister and So Does The Journal-News

Editors Finally Realize They Badly Misplayed The Story The Day Before
When a rare tornado tears up your backyard, it's time for the hometown newspaper to spring into action. Such was the case for The Journal-News, in Westchester County, N.Y., albeit a day late.
Today's package, including most of the front page and four inside pages was a thorough breakdown of the devastation, the aftermath and what comes next. It's a fairly thorough and workmanlike rendering of the surprise twister that had winds of up to 157 mph.
The only problem: A lot of what's in today's paper should have been in yesterday, as I've pointed out.
Sure, every news outfit plays catch-up, but not when you should have been owning the story from the get-go, and missed crucial plot lines, such as the state trooper, whose car was tossed around by the wind and then slammed upside down. A seatbelt meant he escaped with minor injuries. The car was totaled.
The trooper's story made it to The New York Times yesterday. But that thread was absent from The Journal-News, which gave the impression most of its hurricane coverage Thursday emanated from its Harrison headquarters.
Fortunately, Phil Reisman filled in the blanks on the trooper story, and today's photos were exponentially superior to yesterday's efforts, though that was mostly the fault of the layout and the scant space afforded the story Thursday, rather than the shooters themselves.
One hiccup today: A sidebar that led off "A 264-acre Thornwood property owned by the Legionaires of Christ, a Roman Catholic order, was not spared by the twister."
Which implies it was supposed to escape the tornado's wrath, but the Lord above didn't get the memo. Maybe next time.
Hopefully, The Journal-News could use the tornado coverage as an exercise for how to mobilize for crisis coverage on the day it happens, not the day after. In other words, more news, less journal.

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