Locals inspect damage at Shute Harbour, Airlie Beach, after Cyclone Debbie's onslaught.
Locals inspect damage at Shute Harbour, Airlie Beach, after Cyclone Debbie's onslaught. DAN PELED

News crews are damp and delivering

IN THE coming days we're going to hear plenty of stories of cyclone heroes going above and beyond to help their communities.

Whether it was someone helping a neighbour at the peak of the winds; rescue staffers braving the elements to perform rescues; or the army and other Mr Fixits who will put the dented towns and cities back together again, there will be many uplifting stories.

Mine's a little more introspective - the media played a vital role in informing the public of Cyclone Debbie's foibles, and some of them did it in extreme circumstances.

We had people sleeping in newsrooms; others without power but finding ways to keep the internet scavengers up to date with the latest; and people who put their readers above their own family and property.

Sharon Smallwood's Whitsunday Times team continued to power a website without electricity yesterday. As laptop and phone batteries faded, Sharon kept the work car running, rotating phone batteries to keep them juiced up.

Down the road in Mackay, young reporters told to leave their apartments hunkered down for the night in the office, wrapped in sleeping bags, keeping the website live.

Their editor, Rowan Hunnam, left her houseboat in the Mackay marina to run her news team after virtually no sleep in bucking seas on Sunday night.

After a huge day in the office, and a two-hour kip on Tuesday night in a hotel after people were banned from returning to the marina, she clocked up 12 hours again on Tuesday.

It was not until Wednesday morning she even knew her family boat had survived the massive winds.

We journalists are a strange lot.

Take Townsville editor Ben English, one of the best newsroom leaders in the country.

Ben had his team primed for action from Sunday.

You could hear how deflated he was when Debbie turned south. He didn't want something bad to happen to his town. But he wanted to be front centre of a massive news event.

People need to know what's happening; careers are made or lost in moments like these.

Our newspaper and website work this week has helped communities understand what was going on, what evasive action they needed to take. And we'll be there for the clean-up, as people need to know how their communities can be put back together again.

Remember that when you see the TV pretty boys back in Brisbane, moving on to new stories.

They don't live in the regions; they don't care like the locals.



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