How Local TV Covers Snowmageddon in the South

This isn’t Minnesota. A few inches of snow in North Carolina quickly gets named Snowmageddon on twitter and warrants wall-to-wall television coverage.  Here’s how we do it at WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh.

From the moment of the four letter forecast, it’s all hands on deck. Managers mobilize their departments to both do their jobs and support the news department in getting / covering the story.

Every single person in the television station “unofficially transfers” to the News department. Accountants become snow desk volunteers. Sales execs become shuttle drivers getting crews to and from nearby hotels. Every person with a camera of any kind becomes a photographer.  Department heads and staffers from other divisions in our parent company Capitol Broadcasting  work the 24/7 social media response team. Our goal is personal service. Be helpful. Be a resource. Be a lifeline in every possible way.

WRAL-TV Facebook page

60+ WRAL staffers tweet

We look for every technology available to get stories, pictures and videos to air. We used Skype to get a liveshot on with Jackie Hyland, one of our main news anchors, who was stuck in her car for nearly four hours.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

Especially on days like today, you need to be able to broadcast live from anywhere. Drive5, is our new mobile dashcam fleet (with its own twitter account) that allows us to broadcast live from absolutely anywhere. One of the most incredible video feeds came from a dashcam mounted in a news car traveling along Glenwood Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the city that was absolutely crippled by abandoned cars.

We used a new ipad app @TVInteract to move live tweets with pics to air without having to add graphic support.

The WRAL.com tech team in Raleigh keeps the site humming. They’ve built an incredible backend so the servers don’t even breathe hard, easily handling web traffic at more than a million page views an hour. Web editors are scheduled around the clock, each assigned to a reporter/photographer team to move content quickly to the web, mobile apps and social media. Other editors are assigned specific tasks like moving viewer submitted pictures from various platforms to web and TV and publishing multiple live streams.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at WRAL.com lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at WRAL.com lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The station website recently relaunched a responsive design that changes the layout of the site as the story gets bigger. Any site format change on the main site gets automatically mirrored on the mobile apps. If you haven’t seen responsive design yet, check it out

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

In the promotion department, we follow the tone of the story as it unfolds. Some snow storms are lighthearted and some, like this one, are more serious. Our plan completely changed as the story changed into dangerous gridlock. We start capturing sound from air in the early morning hours. We produce quick spots that deliver on our core mission to serve. We focus on what makes WRAL coverage unique.

Over and over, every time in a crisis, North Carolina proves it has heart. Neighbors help neighbors. Good Samaritans outnumber the complainers. The kindness in people emerges and our community makes me very proud to be a native.

Read awesome stories of people helping people

Broadcasting live 32.5 hours of 36 requires an army of WRAL staffers, steaming on WRAL.com and multiple mobile apps, simulcasting on sister radio station MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM, and sister TV station WILM, posting information and responding to questions on facebook and twitter 24/7…That’s how WRAL does it.

So here’s to you, North Carolina, for taking it on the chin like a champ. WRAL is here to help you #StaySafe.

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