Earthquakes, unlike so much of what pseudo-information is foisted upon us, actually qualify as news. Especially having watched all the recent footage from Haiti and Chile, when the ground starts shaking, the first instinct of those of us in the pushing-50 bracket is to turn on the TV and see what the stations are playing.
To put this into perspective—it's a long while since I've worked in a newsroom—in the olden days of the 80s, I remember being in the newsroom at KTTV Channel 11 (in the Pre-Fox days) when Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and even our little skeleton crew of weekend news gatherers went into overdrive to deal with the story, and since there was only one live international feed coming in we were continually dealing with when to cut away if it looked like the bloodshed was going to be too much for the viewers.
The point I'm getting to is that when the story broke, there were people in the newsroom to cover it, even though it was the weekend. These days, the local LA stations just continued on with the sport recaps until someone was available to go on air.
So we switched to CNN and Fox News.
Did they have reporters ready to go on? Well, not exactly. They had their anchors (all of whom proved they can adlib, which was a nice surprise), and they had Twitter feeds and Google Maps.
This is where social media is pretty amazing. Obviously, there are no network news bureaus in Calexico (heck, ABC's even closing down their bureau in Los Angeles), so the majority of reports that came out after the earthquake happened in 140 characters or less, with an occasional TwitPic for additional color.
Reporters, with nobody to interview, instead were assigned to sit at a desk and tell the audience over and over what they saw on Google Maps about where aftershocks were taking place.
So basically, with all the massive resources of the network news operations, they went to air for hours with the same information I could have put out if I set a camera up in the garage and fed it out.
That, in a nutshell, is both amazing, and a little sad if like me you bemoan the slow fade of broadcast news. I think I'm going to go watch Network now... on LaserDisk just to be nostalgic.