Faster Fact Checking, Part 3: Crisis and Public Safety Reporting

Broadcastify, Google Media Tools, and Three resources that help journalists report during an emergency or crisis

Three resources helping journalists report during a crisis

This is the third in a series about online resources for faster fact checking. Catch up on our posts about verifying data and social media tools, then join PR Newswire’s Sarah Skerik this Thursday, March 20, for a free webinar on the evolution of media.

On one side of the breaking news spectrum lies major company announcements, the unveiling of the latest gadget, and births and deaths of public figures. On the other side, unfortunately, you have breaking news involving emergencies and catastrophe.

In the latter case, it’s essential for public safety to stay informed about what’s going on. Because of this, there’s a specific set of online tools  to help journalists understand and report what’s happening from minute to minute.


During a breaking incident, many journalists turn to police and emergency scanners as a way to monitor first response.

Broadcastify, launched in 2012, makes it easier for the public and press to access feeds across nearly 20 countries by offering widespread live-audio of public safety, aircraft, rail, and marine-related communications.

Within the U.S., users can search by state, city, and zipcode for free live feeds or filter by feed type. You also can visit the site to see which feeds have the most listeners or are under alert.

Although most of the features are free, a premium subscription offers other tools like direct data downloads and access to all of the live audio feed archives.

After the Asiana Airlines crash in 2013, Al Tompkins wrote on about the helpfulness of Broadcastify and other public safety monitoring tools to figure out what was happening.

However, it’s important to keep in mind basic common sense and ethics when monitoring first responders – regardless of whether it’s online or using an actual scanner.

Numerous inaccuracies and public safety issues arose when the media and public turned to Boston PD scanners to report aspects of last year’s marathon bombing. However, as Tompkins pointed out after the Asiana Airlines crash, Broadcastify can be helpful, as long as it’s part of a much larger toolbox.

Google Media Tools for Crisis Response

Last year, Google collected its media tools into one hub. Some of these were for publishing and engagement, others for gathering information through Google Trends and Analytics.

On the site’s Additional Resources section, Google has compiled a section of Crisis Response resources.

The site explains: “Google Crisis Response seeks to make critical information more accessible around natural disasters and humanitarian crises. We can provide updated satellite imagery of the disaster area, charitable donations to organizations on-the-ground, outreach through Google web properties, and engineering tools—such as Google Person Finder and landing pages—designed to organize and coordinate critical response resources and information.”

For instance, Crisis Maps can be built, modified, or embedded by media to share emergency and disaster-related information with readers.  During Superstorm Sandy, Google’s Crisis Response team created a map that had the current location and projected path of the storm, along with wind information and evacuation routes.

The Public Alerts tool tracks real-time alerts for storms, earthquakes, forest fires, tsunamis, and other potential safety issues across the globe. Journalists who need an overview of disaster trends in a particular state or province also can easily search for that data.

The European Journalism Centre’s Emergency Journalism project offers the most comprehensive set of resources we could find for media needing to report accurately and quickly during a crisis.

Its resources page includes lists of handy GPS trackers, verification and validation tools, and crowdsourcing networks. The European Journalism Centre also has established itself as a thought leader with news and analysis about emergency journalism.

“In a mobile age when people demand near-instant information (and then judge us harshly if we get things wrong), a lean and digitally acute plan for how to cover breaking news is crucial,” writes R.B. Brenner, deputy director of Stanford University’s journalism program, on his media blog.

In his post, You’re asking for trouble without a breaking news strategy, he shares tips from editors at The Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and other outlets. It’s an excellent reminder that the best tool in an emergency is to plan ahead.

FREE WEBINAR: How Newsrooms are Adapting to the Ever-Changing Digital Media Environment

As the digital age transforms how people find, consume, and share information, traditional media outlets are being challenged to retool their newsrooms and evolve news coverage. Journalists need to deliver stories that satisfy audiences’ appetites for rich visuals, mobile-friendly design, and up-to-the minute reporting.

Join Sarah Skerik, PR Newswire’s Vice President of Content Marketing, on March 20 for a discussion on how today’s media adapts to a faster news cycle.

The free webinar will continue the conversation we’re having on Beyond Bylines about speed vs. accuracy, the need to own up to misinformation, and tools journalists can use to deliver accurate news faster than before.

Presenters include Ellyn Angelotti, Faculty – Social Media and the Law  and Director of Custom Programs at Poynter Institute for Media Studies; David Cohn, News Director at Circa; and Theodore Kim, Mobile/Tablet Editor at the Washington Post.


Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire.  Follow her @ADHicken.

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4 Responses

  1. March 18, 2014

    […] offering widespread live-audio of public safety, aircraft, rail, and marine-related communications. Click hereto continue reading the complete post on Beyond […]

  2. March 25, 2014

    […] online tools that help verify data; part 2 focused on social media fact checking; and part 3, crisis and public safety reporting.  For our final installment, we’re moving away from tools and reviewing where you can learn more […]

  3. May 6, 2014

    […] Faster Fact Checking, Part 3: Crisis and Public Safety Reporting […]

  4. September 12, 2018

    […] breaking news to best practices and making sense of social media. Read up on Parts one, two, three, and […]

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