Covering a Crisis: Memorial Day Weekend
Local representatives from the City of San Marcos, KTSW radio, the University Star, Texas State Social Media and Hays Free Press shared their media crisis stories from the Memorial Day flood during Mass Comm week.
The panel was hosted by Mass Comm professor, Kym Fox, and was created in order to discuss what San Marcos can potentially do differently in the case of another crisis as well as hear the challenges that were faced during the memorial day media coverage.
Public Information Officer of San Marcos, Kristi Wyatt was very vocal throughout the panel about what the city went through during the tragedy and the news coverage she coordinated with.
“At 4 AM I decided that this flood needed a hashtag to connect everyone with information,” said Wyatt. “We created #SMTXFLOOD and by 9:00 AM we decided to hold a press conference where numerous news stations attended.”
Matthew Hamill, senior news reporter for KTSW, said his cousin from Scotland called him saying his soccer game was interrupted by NBC’s coverage of the press conference regarding the flood in San Marcos.
“As soon as I got that call, KTSW rounded up all the employees in the area and we gave live reports around the clock for 8-10 hours” said Hamill.
The panel discussed the hourly progression of the flood, and they all agreed that they felt somewhat unprepared for how to properly handle the crisis. Given that 11 people were killed and a little over one thousand houses were damaged, the media outlets voiced it was important to stay as sensitive and accurate as possible with the coverage.
During the aftermath of the flood, University Star’s senior editor Kelsey Bradshaw said that nothing she has ever done could ever have prepared her for this, but that she reminded herself that these are people just like us.
“When I did an interview, I tried to think of these people as my best friends,” said Bradshaw. “There were times I would end up crying because I could feel their pain.”
Some of the obstacles that occurred when handling the flood and its coverage has caused the city as well as local media outlets to draw up new and improved emergency plans that will take measure if another crisis like this ever takes place. Kristi Wyatt says the city is still in full recovery mode and analyzing 3D flood maps while working with longterm recovery group BR3T.
“We want to make sure this never happens again,” said Wyatt. “We will do whatever it takes to protect this community and make sure that nothing deepens their wounds.”