Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First The Fire, Now The Flood?

As I write this (roughly 10:30 pm on Monday) the authorities are issuing a warning to residents of the area affected by the Tea Fire telling them to be prepared to evacuate if those expected rainstorms materialize.

It's a sobering reminder that the natural disasters that have the potential for wiping certain parts of the community off the map, can also put certain segments of the media on the map.

For example, on the recordings of 911 calls received around the time the Tea Fire broke out, emergency operators are heard telling callers to "turn to Channel 3" to get information on the fire. KEYT has recently been including those recordings in its news promos touting its fire coverage.

The night the fire broke out I was returning from Ventura. I tuned into KTYD on my car radio to find out what was going on. To my surprise David Perry and Julie Ramos, who usually work the morning drive-time shift, were among those on the air reporting on the fire. Other Santa Barbara radio stations were on the air with fire information as well, including AM 1290 (News-Press Radio) and KCLU.

When I got home I turned to Channel 3 on the TV. They were of course on the air with their news broadcast and stayed on past their usual 11:35 pm sign-off time but abruptly left the air at midnight with the explanation that their crews had to leave. Wasn't quite sure what they meant, but other members of the local media have told me that there was no attempt by the authorities to keep reporters out of the fire area that night.

Anyway, I turned the radio back on and left it on all night, even after I fell asleep. I awoke early the next morning around 5 and sure enough, KTYD was still on the air (as were it's sister stations from the Rincon Broadcasting group) covering the fire.

Let's hope that those flash floods don't come to pass and if they do, let's hope that local radio does as good a job as it did on the night of the Tea Fire to keep us all informed.

* * *

Patricia Marroquin, who I reported was among those laid-off by the Ventura County Star, has been hired to work at Goleta based Hispanic Business magazine.

Hispanic Business has become a favored landing spot for many journalists who once had connections to the Santa Barbara News-Press, including former business editor Michael Todd (since moved on to Miller-McCune Magazine) and more recently, Josh Molina, who used to cover City Hall for the News-Press.