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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 05:53 PM ET, 08/23/2011

Washington, D.C., earthquake: The coverage, assessed

A frenzied roundup of D.C. earthquake coverage, featuring no particular order or logic:

Huffington Post, as per usual, masters the great teaser: QUAKE! Media goes nuts. The coverage, delivered in SEO splendor (Washington, DC Earthquake 2011: Media Reacts On Twitter (PHOTOS)), runs a bit on the thin side, though: Curated tweets from media personae and other stuff.

WJLA.com’s headline — not so catchy: 5.9 earthquake felt in Washington, D.C. area. Otherwise, pretty good stuff, including a quake liveblog and video of WJLA reporter/anchor Cynne Simpson interviewing some guy — and then come the tremors. Sister site TBD.com puts together a strong Metro-related liveblog. (Disclosure: I formerly worked at WJLA and TBD).

Speaking of TV news, WUSA.com has what could be the coolest homepage presentation in the area — a graphic showing the earthquake’s big footprint. Not to mention a killer video.

DCist does a nice job of debunking a rumor about a collapsed building on Pennsylvania Avenue, though its attempts at headlining could use a little shaking up (“Earthquake Experienced in D.C. Region”).

The Washington Post channels its coverage quite effectively through its Capital Weather Gang (CWG) blog, which features a picture of the cracked spire at the National Cathedral. Not that the photo delivers a clear view of the crack, but hey, it’s a breaking-news photo. The CWG feed is getting a massive amount of regional updates from Post reporters, making for an addictive, scannable presentation yielding high utility for regional commuters.

Washington City Paper goes with an underwhelming approach, including a post reporting that the quake occurred plus a good item with an annotated photo on the National Cathedral “boo-boo.” But not much else.

But hold on there: A recalibration of lame quake coverage is in order after taking a look at the Web site of the Washington Examiner, where you’ll find a short piece warning of aftershocks plus an AP wrap-up piece. The Examiner’s editorial model — short, short, short Murdochian news pieces — falls apart during cataclysms, when public attention is so great that people will read and read and read. Break the template, Examiner editors!

NBCWashington.com does some responsible reporting on the quake. Yet the site’s homepage template poorly adjusts for big, breaking news stories. It projects absolutely no sense of immediacy — it’s a visual presentation that might lead you to believe it’s Labor Day out there.

The Washington Times throws some reportorial muscle after the story, yet the treatment is all conventional news. Missing is the full-on user-friendly stuff featured on other sites, including The Washington Post and WJLA — closings, traffic, etc.

WTTG Fox News also has the details nailed in this somewhat-hard-to-scan piece. WTOP, king of logistical news, comes through as well.

By  |  05:53 PM ET, 08/23/2011

 
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