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CATASTROPHIC FLOODING FROM HARVEY
There's only one big story right now -- the wrath of Tropical Storm Harvey in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. This abbreviated edition of the newsletter recaps the coverage and looks ahead to Monday...

A flood emergency in the era of social media

"Anyone in North Houston have a boat and can rescue a 3 &6 yo, mom, gramma and grandpa and 2 dogs?"

When there's a natural disaster in one of America's biggest metro areas, residents rely on local TV and radio information. But they reach for their smartphones to seek help. Sunday provided a vivid demonstration of how social media can help, and also sometimes hurt, in a crisis.

Some Houstonians posted pleas for rescues on Facebook and Twitter because 911 circuits were overloaded on Sunday. I first noticed this when I woke up at 5 in the morning. Residents, caught off guard by the rising floodwaters, were already tweeting their addresses and phone numbers to local officials and TV stations. I noticed some local journalists vigilantly forwarded the messages to authorities. One particularly web-savvy official, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, responded to the requests in almost real time. Take a look at his feed here.

Urgent requests for rescues piled up on community-oriented Facebook pages. According to Reuters, over 70,000 people "formed a Facebook group that many of them used to call for help." Just now on CNN, I heard a rescuer named Seth say to correspondent Brian Todd, "We've got a lot of calls coming in on Facebook right now."

But texting 911 is not the same as calling 911. "Do not report your information on social media sites," the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Some people posted pictures to emphasize how high the flood waters were. I found myself thinking back to Superstorm Sandy, when New Yorkers chronicled the flooding of lower Manhattan with tweets and videos. The difference now is that this Texas flooding is forecast to continue for days. Residents will be able to tell their own stories on the web the whole time. (Imagine instant video diaries from inside the Superdome during Katrina.)

This is "a 1-in-1,000 year event"

That's what CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said on the air just now. News outlets need to heed the advice of meteorologists and make sure to zoom out -- because the flooding extends well beyond Houston proper, and it's not going to taper off anytime soon...

One of the defining photos of the day...

...Came from the La Bella Vita nursing home in Dickinson. (See above.) The person who posted it, Kim McIntosh, "lives in Florida, but told CNN that her mother, who owns the nursing home just southeast of Houston, took the photo." 

We tweeted the photo "to try get as much attention" and "maybe find somebody who lived near with them" who could "get there with a boat," McIntosh told Ana Cabrera...

Rumor patrol

Unfortunately false info has also been spreading on social media, along with years-old photos that purport to be from this weekend. Local officials have tried to quash bogus info through the same social networks it's spreading on...

An extraordinary rescue shown live on CNN

CNN's Ed Lavandera, producer Jason Morris and photojournalist Joel De La Rosa traveled up from Galveston to Dickinson on Sunday. In the late afternoon they were able to join a citizen rescuer, Austin Seth, who heeded the call to help rescue residents.

The crew "was about to leave" a Dickinson neighborhood when they heard a family crying out, as Poynter's Al Tompkins recounts here. The beginning of the rescue was shown live. "Lavandera said it was an emotional moment because one of the family members had Alzheimer's. CNN decided to cut away from the rescue until they knew her condition. Once the family was safely on the boat and on the way to waiting family members, Lavandera interviewed family members, again, live on the air..."
 -- Read Tompkin's full round-up here...

 -- Local and national news crews have been working extra-long hours in and around Houston. There's no way to make a complete list, but some of the standouts have included CNN's Rosa Flores, NBC's Jacob Rascon, Fox's Griff Jenkins... and many more...

Staff of KHOU TV evacuates flooded building

KHOU, Houston's CBS affiliate, is located right on the Buffalo Bayou, so staffers are familiar with the threat of flooding. But the bayou inundated the station's building like never before on Sunday morning. First the anchors moved from the first floor to the second... then they had to abandon the building altogether... "Crews found a 'temporary home' at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank," CNNMoney's Jill Disis reports. 

The flood and the evacuation interfered with KHOU's live signals, so CBS News in New York and WFAA in Dallas helped out. Reporters also went live via Facebook and other social media sites. About eight hours later, at 7:30pm ET, the station was able to resume broadcasting on its own...

Amazing work by this KHOU reporter and photographer

While the station's building was being evacuated, but before the broadcast signal went dead, "KHOU reporter Brandi Smith and photographer Mario Sandoval remained out in the field, transmitting live feeds" from a highway on the north side of Houston, WashPost's Amy B. Wang writes. "While reporting on the submerged feeder roads there, Smith said, Sandoval had spotted a semitrailer truck driver trapped in the floodwaters. Smith happened to see Harris County sheriff’s deputies coming on Beltway 8 and flagged them down to report the trapped truck driver." The crew showed the rescue live, and then interviewed the driver... It is a stunning piece of video from start to finish... seven minutes long...

At the Houston Chronicle...

"We have the entire editorial staff activated," Houston Chronicle managing editor Vernon Loeb told me on "Reliable Sources." "Most people cannot get into the newsroom. We've got a skeleton crew... Most everybody else is editing from home or from wherever they are, directing their teams. I've got one editor in Taos, New Mexico, in a Starbucks directing her team. I told her, 'You can do as much from Taos as you can from Houston right now.'"

As for the forecast for more rain: "Where this goes, I have no idea..."

News sites keeping paywalls lifted

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: National and local news web sites like the NYT, WashPost, and the San Antonio Express-News have lifted their paywalls to allow people to access an unlimited # of articles about Harvey... 

"Our electricity and hardline telephone are out..."

This is a photo of NYT reporter Clifford Krauss and his wife Paola moving books to the second floor of their flooded home in Bellaire, Texas. His 12-year-old daughter Emilie took the photo. 

"Outside my window, the houses on the street look like sinking ships," Krauss wrote in this notebook for NYTimes.com. "And along with taking care of my family, it’s hard not to worry about my ability to continue to cover a story with enormous consequences for the city where I live, for the national economy and perhaps for consideration of climate change. Around 12:30 p.m. the rain suddenly stopped. But our electricity and hardline telephone are out..."

Banner headlines on news sites

Home page design conveying the enormity of the crisis. Atop NYTimes.com right now: "Catastrophic Floods Turn Houston Streets Into Rivers." CNN.com: "Forecast for flooded Houston: More rain." ABC: "An 'unprecedented' event: Harvey brings record flooding to Houston area."

Sunday night's newscasts

The big three nightly newscasts were all anchored from Houston -- with Lester Holt on NBC, Mark Strassman on CBS and Tom Llamas on ABC. (Holt drove up from Corpus Christi, where he anchored on Saturday night.)

The broadcast networks also produced some special reports during the day on Sunday. CBS was on point, airing a special right after "Face the Nation" from 11:30 til 1pm ET...

Monday coverage plans

CNN's "Early Start" will begin an hour earlier than usual, at 3am ET... "FOX & Friends First" will also moving up an hour, to 4am ET... "CBS This Morning" will expand from two hours to three hours... and co-anchor Norah O’Donnell will be in Houston... CBS says "the team will be producing live coverage through noon, and the broadcast will be live for every time zone..."

Essential reading...

Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman emails: This ProPublica and Texas Tribune interactive investigation on what happens when Houston is hit by a storm, first published in March 2016, should be re-read now. Kiah Collier, who co-authored the report, is set to be on CNN's "New Day" Monday morning...
For the record, part one
By Julia Waldow:

 -- CBS just announced that it is acquiring Network Ten in Australia... (Press release)

 -- Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" dominated the charts within the first 24 hours of its release -- over 19 million people watched the lyric video on YouTube, and 200,000 people paid to download the single... (Recode)

 -- Google has apparently developed a way for users to permanently mute websites that feature noisy auto-play videos... (TechCrunch)

The MTV VMA's are here

Lisa Respers France emails: I'll be covering the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night, with frequent updates on CNN.com. Here's our curtain-raiser. MTV is not shying away from politics: Six transgender service members will be in attendance, as well as a fourth generation nephew of Confederate general Robert E. Lee., Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, who is expected to speak out against racial injustice...

AND...

The "Game of Thrones" season finale is here

Brian Lowry will have our complete review on CNN.com overnight...
Trump and the media

Trump's unfocused reaction to Texas flooding

As I'm sure you know by now, President Trump tweeted about NAFTA, the wall, tax reform, his election day victory in Missouri, and David Clarke's book, along with many tweets about the Texas flooding. He was "tweeting about this storm as if it was a reality show that was unfolding," HuffPost EIC Lydia Polgreen told me on "Reliable Sources." She added: "I mean, his tweets seem totally, completely outside of what you would expect from a president dealing with a disaster."

 -- Related: Maggie Haberman and others have remarked that Trump sometimes tweets and speaks like he's a passersby, a passive observer, as opposed to the POTUS...

Jeff Greenfield's point

Political analyst Jeff Greenfield in that aforementioned "Reliable Sources" segment:

"In a way this is almost like Groundhog Day, because we keep saying the same thing again and again. This is simply not normal. You wouldn't be talking about any other president's tweets because no other president would have been tweeting in the middle of a natural disaster like what's going on down in Texas. I do think that there is, among some of Trump's biggest critics, an instinct to say 'He is wrong.' But part of that comes from the fact that every time you look up, there's a head-snapping event. I mean, the idea of tweeting about how much you won a state by in the middle of this natural disaster would have been unthinkable with any other president..."

"Deep irony"

USA Today EIC/Gannett chief content officer Joanne Lipman on the show: "I have got to point out the deep irony here." She said Trump called journalists "sick people" who "don't like our country" just a few days ago, and now we're seeing journalists brave the elements to "cover danger, to cover it, to bring this to the rest of the world." Watch the full discussion here...

 -- Jake Tapper tweeted Sunday evening: "Amazing reporting and compassion by so many journalists out there -- amazing life saving by FEMA, Natl Guard, volunteers. Patriots, all."

Phoenix New Times' national moment

An Phung emails: Long before Joe Arpaio landed on the national radar, there was an alt-weekly in Phoenix, Arizona, that covered the controversial sheriff obsessively. The Phoenix New Times' breadth of coverage was on full display Friday evening as news broke that President Trump pardoned Arpaio for his criminal contempt conviction. At 10:01pm ET, the social media editor for the paper populated their Twitter feed with 20 articles that date back to 1997 when now-Scientology watchdog Tony Ortega was still a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. "We've been covering Joe Arpaio for more than 20 years," the paper said. "Here's a couple of things you should know about him..."

As of Sunday afternoon, the thread has been shared 140,000 times, with retweets from Chelsea Clinton and Cory Booker, among many others. Since Friday night, @phoenixnewtimes amassed over 12,000 new followers, with the thread alone reaching 51 million people, social media editor Dillon Rosenblatt told me.

The headlines don't paint a pretty picture of the former sheriff, who was convicted in July for failing to follow a court order to cease with his signature round-ups of undocumented immigrants. "Arpaio's Jail Staff Cost Ambrett Spencer Her Baby and She's Not the Only One" and "A Phony Murder Plot Against Joe Arpaio Winds Up Costing Taxpayers $1.1 Million" are just examples of the kinds of headlines followers were treated to on Twitter. "Over the past two decades, we were pretty much the only paper that was covering these stories on Arpaio in Arizona, let alone the entire country," Rosenblatt said...
"Reliable Sources" highlights

"I really think we're overstating Bannon's importance"

I had a very interesting conversation with Kurt Bardella and David Zurawik on Sunday's show. Zurawik said members of the media are "overstating" Steve Bannon and Breitbart's power. Kurt Bardella said Breitbart's power comes less from its actual audience size and more from its "influence" in the Trump White House. Watch the segment here... Mediaite has a recap here...

Four ways to catch up on the show

You can read the transcript, listen to the podcast through iTunes, watch video clips on CNN.com, or watch the full program on CNNgo. I recommend the video clips this week, since the podcast version includes some of our Harvey coverage...
What do you think?
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