Is your newsroom crisis plan up to date?

December 11, 2017 01:30

We all become accustomed to having the tools of our workplace at our fingertips. We count on having our desk and our computer waiting for us in the office every day, and for newsrooms the list is longer: The studio, the edit bays, cameras and live trucks, the control room and so many other pieces of the puzzle we count on to produce and deliver the day's news.

But what if all of that stuff suddenly wasn't there? Sure, we might be able to gather at least some of the day's news with our smartphones or laptops, counting on the cellular network to send our stories into the cloud. But how could we make sure those stories reached our audience? Would you be prepared to cover a natural disaster in your area if your building was caught up in it?

That's where a newsroom crisis plan comes in. It pays to think ahead about potential situations, even if they're unlikely.

For example, how would your station cover the news and serve your audience if your station was damaged by fire? What would your next steps be if your tower collapsed? How would your news crews work if they couldn't make it to the station because of a flood? What happens if the studio loses power? What happens if one of the computer systems that helps deliver your newscast crashes right before you're supposed to go on the air?

And because so much technology has changed in recent years, has your crisis plan been updated to take into account how much we rely on that technology? If one link in the chain fails, how can you work around it?

To assist your newsroom in developing a crisis plan, RTDNF developed a thorough list of questions to consider. We've included it on the training tab of our website for easy access. It asks 50 questions, covering areas such as:
  • Coverage planning
  • Communications
  • Equipment
  • Health
  • Newsroom mobility
  • Personnel
  • Security
  • Contacts
It also contains a checklist of contact phone numbers you would want to have available in the event of a crisis situation.

Do crisis plans work? Because of advance planning, newsrooms on the coasts can continue broadcasting during hurricanes and serve their viewers when it matters most. The Grand Forks Herald newspaper in North Dakota never missed an issue even when its city was inundated by a flood and their building burned. KBJR-TV in Duluth, Minnesota didn't miss a single newscast when their studios burned down, or when their tower collapsed in an ice storm a few years later. TV and radio stations in Houston kept providing information to their audience as their buildings flooded in the wake of a hurricane.

Does your station have a crisis plan from which others could learn? Let us know in the comments below.


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