The tragic and disastrous fires in Southern California have been described repeatedly as a "perfect storm" of weather conditions causing a worst-case fire scenario.
It has also become a perfect storm of mainstream and new media; and, for the first time, really has alerted the general public to how a perfect media world of traditional and technological can co-exist.
Living in Los Angeles, I knew I could count on the L.A. TIMES and the local TV and radio stations for constant updates. The coverage has been phenomenal. In print (through the TIMES, DAILY NEWS, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER and, of course, the San Diego newspapers), we have been receiving incredibly touching first-hand experiences and photos of stories that make us feel uncomfortably close to the actual fires. The reporters for the TV and radio stations give us live coverage where the closeness, danger and spectacle of the fires come to life.
And, for the first time, the bloggers, amateur photographers and videographers have seriously and visibly created entirely new categories of media coverage that reach not only those who count on computers for news and information, but the general public. Everyone from L.A. OBSERVED to TMZ.com and Nikki Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD provide us with news and links to writers in Malibu, San Diego, Canyon Country and elsewhere to give us moment-by-moment updates. I can find out which direction the wind is blowing and how quickly the firefighters are responding. I know where the emergency vehicles are parked and how many horses are being loaded into trailers to be transported. The bloggers from the REGISTER work next to the high school kids, and the free-lancer in Malibu reports the immediacy and detail in eloquent terms while a journalist gives us the vital facts and figures.
The still photos and videos provided by the general public also supplement the story in ways never possible. In the past, I was cynical when local and cable TV stations asked the public for video of news events. With my family's history in television, I assumed this was much more about marketing than news. Now, though, I see the need for viewer-contributed graphics to fully tell the story.
I want the fires and wind to fade into the distance, and it will never be easy to forget. More than ever the record of tragedies will stay with us much longer because of the incredible scope of the media coverage.