In the Fall of 2011, Al-jazeera partnered with the SBTF to produce a crisis map in response to the earthquake in Van, Turkey. Earlier this month, our colleagues at Al-jazeera got in touch with the SBTF again, this time seeking support for their crisis map of the snowstorm emergency in the Balkans. They were in the middle of launching their map and were specifically looking for volunteers from the region who were fluent in the respective languages to monitor and map relevant tweets, emails and text messages.
So we sent out an email to SBTF volunteers and set up a dedicated Skype chat (as per standard operating procedure). We also used other networks to recruit volunteers from the region. About a dozen volunteers rallied to the cause and did an outstanding job, mapping over 250 relevant reports on issues ranging from blocked streets and isolated areas to critical needs and response services.
During the first two weeks after the launch, the crisis map was the most popular page on the Al-jazeera Balkans website, both on a daily and weekly basis. Even on the first day of the launch, the crisis map very quickly became the most read item of the week. According to our Al-jazeera colleagues, the crisis map was also the first to break the news on several incidents. In addition, the map provided the most comprehensive coverage of the snowstorm in the region. Indeed, the content populating the map was also shared via the Al-jazeera TV newsroom.
The mainstream media has always played an important role vis-a-vis the dissemination of information during and after a crisis. They typically have a lot more visibility and reach. As news organizations like Al-jazeera continue to innovate with new types of technologies and media, there is little doubt that crisis maps like the one above will increasingly form part of the mainstream news.