Oregon is located in the middle of the Cascadia subduction zone, stretching from Vancouver Island, BC to northern California. Researchers assert we’re overdue for a potentially catastrophic earthquake. Yet, only 10% of Northwesterners have emergency plans and disaster preparedness kits.
Don’t Wait for the Quake is a news experiment that partnered University of Oregon journalism students with Oregon Public Broadcasting to produce a live forum on the top of earthquake preparedness using Harv.is, an innovative mobile app, to measure audience and viewer attitudes and intended actions. The live event was held Tuesday, November 17 at the historic UO “White Stag” building in Portland. Video coverage was web-streamed on OPB.org and simulcast statewide on OPB’s radio network.
Harvis registered 184 unique users during our live event on November 17. Approximately two-thirds (63.2%) of users identified as “Concerned Citizens,” while “Students” and “Educators” made up a combined 21.8% of users. The remaining 15% of users identified as either a “State or Local Public Leader,” “Community Organizer or Leader,” “First Responder,” “Counselor,” or as “Other.” Portland Metro residents comprised 70% of users, while nearly 14% were residents of Western Oregon/The Willamette Valley. The remaining 15.6% of users were residents of Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon, the Oregon Coast or Cascades, Washington, California, or another location not listed
Overall, results showed an increase in feelings of preparedness after the audience watched the experiment videos; the percent change was difficult to quantify as some users responded to Q3, but not to Q9, and vice versa. Regarding the stories themselves, the videos on pet safety (“Preparing your Pet For An Earthquake”), bicycle relief trials (“The Disaster Relief Trials”), and the Pathfinder Minutemen military drill (“Training Together”) received more upward swipes than downward swipes, while the video about California and Nepal’s earthquakes (“Lessons from California and Nepal”) received a similar number of upward and downward swipes, possibly due to the images of destruction shown at the beginning of the piece.
Large spikes in upward swipes were registered during “The Disaster Relief Trials” and “Preparing Your Pet For An Earthquake.” It’s possible users were influenced by the stylistic editing choices employed by both videos. “The Disaster Relief Trials” made use of video portraits, while “Preparing Your Pet For An Earthquake” included a step-by-step guide to assembling an emergency pet kit. Both videos may have struck an emotional chord with users; “The Disaster Relief Trials” included images of families and children, and “Preparing Your Pet For An Earthquake” focused on the relationship between a pet owner and her dog. Additionally, the activities featured in these videos may have been perceived as more feasible or “doable” by the audience, and therefore more relatable.
Themes that received the highest number of upward swipes included “Training,” and “Community,” followed by “Recovery and “Self-Reliance.” The themes “Communication” and “Outreach” received the lowest number of upward swipes. This discrepancy can be partially explained by the number of times each theme appeared in the videos. The more times a theme appeared, the more opportunities audience members had to swipe in response to that theme. If this experiment were to be conducted again, we would craft videos in which all nine themes appeared an equal number of times.
“Don’t Wait for the Quake”: Local Learning from Distant Disasters
by Ed Madison
Until recently, the Pacific Northwest did not come to mind in discussions about earthquakes.
A New Yorker magazine article published in July brought broader attention to scientific data indicating that our region is overdue for a major seismic incident. However, local media, educators, and researchers have focused on this issue for some time.
When considering a topic to propose for the 2015-16 Online News Association Challenge Fund grant, we thought earthquake preparedness was significant and timely. Our winning proposal, outlined production of a live town meeting designed to bring together citizens and civic leaders to discuss the matter. “Don’t Wait For The Quake,” scheduled for Tuesday, November 17 in Portland, will be the result. The event is being produced by our UO School of Journalism and Communication in partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting.
In preparation, we thought it was appropriate to send student journalists to locations that have experienced seismic disasters. Nepal, while distant, was high on our list. The South-Central Asian country is still recovering from a devastating quake that killed more than 8,000 people in April of this year.
While the infrastructural issues are clearly different, we believe there is still much to learn from what occurred in Nepal as well as its aftermath. Kyle Hentschel and Sutton Raphael were selected from over 20 student applicants who expressed interest in documenting the story. Several prospective story angles potentially tie Nepal's experience to the quake expected to hit the Pacific Northwest.
In the wake of a major disaster, many people are moved to put their own lives on hold to travel to affected areas and assist. One angle we considered pertains to the ethics of so-called “voluntourism.” Researchers estimate that the number of people seeking service-related travel experiences worldwide has more tripled since 2007, from 3 million to between 10 to 15 million. Yet there are ethical questions to consider, such as whether inexperienced volunteers are qualified to perform rebuilding activities, and or whether allocations of vital resources will be re-directed from victims to altruistic but ill-prepared travelers.
Another possible angle is to document the Nepal disaster thought the eyes of Americans who were present. In their research, Kyle and Sutton discovered a Seattle resident who was visiting Nepal during the April earthquake, and who has stayed to contribute to the relief effort.
Other narrative avenues may reveal themselves during their trip, which begins September 21. Kyle and Sutton, and our entire team, will be reflecting here on the journey of how “Don’t Wait For The Quake” comes together.
Encounters from our first 24 hours in Kathmandu
By Sutton Raphael
My travel partner Kyle and I wake up at 6:30am in the Gaju Suite. It’s a popular hotel for trekkers visiting Nepal, and we will be staying here until our ride up to Ghorka on the 26th. The hotel sits in Thamel, an older neighborhood in Kathmandu that, before the earthquake, housed many of Nepal’s tourists. Today, Thamel has lost its primary source of income. In the last five months, Nepal’s tourism industry is down an estimated 85 percent.
We leave the Gaju Suite armed with a couple cameras at 8:30am. Many of the shops that line the streets in Thamel have already opened their doors. Piles of North Face jackets and off-brand windbreakers and down jackets deserted after tourist expeditions are offered at nearly all of these shops. We quickly learn that if we don’t hug the sides of the shops while walking, our ankles will be obliterated by the stream of motorcyclists flooding the streets.
We make our way to Basantapur, where a temple stands in one of Kathmandu’s three Durbar squares. We begin talking to several people who speak English. Amit Gupta and Anup Shrestha open up to us about their experiences after the earthquake. We learn that hundreds of people slept in the Basantapur square for months, and that neighbors who had not lost their homes cooked for those who had. On the edge of this square, one five-story apartment building stands tall beside a pile of bricks where another once stood. Many of the fallen buildings were built using mud bricks, rather than baked bricks, a spending sacrifice made by the landlords that would prove devastating. In this neighborhood, we also learn that rent has been raised since the earthquake. Now, residents pay higher rent based on how close their floor is to ground level.
It makes me recall a recent trip I took to Miami, where renters living in South Beach spend much higher premiums for a space on the top floor. This is far from the case in Kathmandu.
As we continue walking, we see stacks of baked bricks on several street corners. Nearby, residents fill their woven sacks with these bricks and carry the sacks back to their homes by hoisting the straps up to their foreheads.
Kyle and I also meet Keshab in the Basantapur square. Keshab is a local tour guide, but we received his contact information through a mutual friend at the University of Oregon. Keshab hails a taxi for us and then we’re on our way to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is a smaller town located on the edge of Kathmandu. Up until five months ago, it was known for its Hindu temples dating back to the 1600s. These temples belonged to several Hindu kings before Nepal was founded as a country. Today, only small piles of rubble remain at many of these historic sites. Photos have been placed next to the sites to remind onlookers of the beauty that once stood.
After these historic temples fell, small tents and canopies from around the world were resurrected in fields surrounding Bhaktapur’s city center. One of these fields is now home to 450 people who lost their homes during the quake. Five months later, about the same number of people still live in several dozen tents. At this site we meet Amiruna, a woman who lives in a tent with seven other families.
Inside the tent, which has the German flag printed on two of the walls, a layer of mold is growing from the months of monsoon rains these families have had to endure. Several pots and pans and a travel stove sit in one of the corners of the tent. Amiruna tells us that this is their kitchen, but much of the donated food and supplies has run out. Now, most of the women in the camp spend their days knitting gloves, mittens, and hats for a non-profit that pays them for their labor. As winter approaches, many of the residents in the camp do not know where they will live in the coming months.
Memories of Nepal
by Kyle Hentschel
My back began to sweat moving through the crowd of shouting taxi drivers at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Each one calling out to me, asking for business. In the masses, I saw the Ace the Himalaya sign I was looking for and made a beeline for it. Milan Adikari, who we would become good friends with over the course of our journey, greeted me with a garland of marigolds and a friendly “Namaste, Welcome to Nepal.”
For the next sixteen days, Sutton and I moved serendipitously, letting our own curiosities and the will of our new friends, Amit and Anup, guide our experience. It didn’t feel like we were working on an assignment. How often does work make you feel shocked, amazed, horrified, sad, small, fortunate?
While each visceral moment from our trip deserves a full description, here are just a few of the most memorable for me:
Riding around town on the back of a motorbike.
Sharing momo (dumplings) at Amit and Anup’s favorite the neighborhood restaurant.
Watching thousands of people parade around the town square.
Experiencing monkeys just inches away from us at the Monkey Temple.
Seeing Kathmandu from above and the cluster of color.
Cooling off in a river after a hike through the villages of Gorkha.
Letting some local kids control our cameras to make a rap video.
Morning goat licks in the village.
Watching a burning ceremony at the largest Hindu temple in nepal, Pashupatinath.
Watching traditional dances from front-row seats at Indra Jatra.
“A Taste of Television”
by Jonathan Bach
Who would have imagined that a small cohort of journalism students could produce such engaging television for a statewide audience?
At the start of this school year, I sure didn’t think it would happen. But here we are, one Oregon Public Broadcast production later, triumphant: Allen Hall Studios students helped pull off “Don’t Wait for the Quake,” an hour-long broadcast on earthquake safety that was livestreamed on OPB.org.
What a pleasure it was to film and interview sources for a video about the Disaster Relief Trials, an annual race in Portland where cyclists challenge themselves to deliver emergency supplies amidst simulated disaster conditions. Cameras in hand, our nimble group of six reporters found sources and coordinated who would film what in order to get the footage we needed. After a day-long shoot in Portland, it was back to our University of Oregon-based editing bay. And seeing the story come together couldn’t have been more gratifying.
Then: Lights, camera, live on OPB! I worked as a light assistant in the director’s booth during the program. Here I learned that so much of television is in the preparation. Nuance reigns, and details matter. Getting to work alongside two professional directors was a chance for unparalleled professional growth, one that made me start to consider how I might some day transition into television news.
I don’t think I could have imagined at the outset of this project just how inspiring and practical the experience would be.
Drop, Cover, and Hold
By Joshua Gurnick
When I was first presented with the idea of this project, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved because of my experience growing up in Southern California where earthquakes are common. Throughout K-12 education we were regularly refreshed on earthquake procedures with drills in which we were instructed to drop, cover, and hold until we got the “all clear.” I’ve seen those same procedures work during a real earthquake while I was in a summer school class during my sophomore year of high school.
I understand the importance of preparedness, which is why I wanted to bring awareness to the importance of it here in the Pacific Northwest. Since the New Yorker, titled The Really Big One, was published in July I have noticed a sense of panic and helplessness. The response to the article showed me that there is an overwhelming lack of knowledge about earthquakes and preparation. I felt the need as a semi-knowledgeable Californian to do what I could to help with the preparation process in Oregon.
I was a part of the team that produced the video on the Pathfinder Minutemen exercise that was conducted at Camp Rilea on the Oregon Coast. This was an exercise conducted in partnership with various military, medical, and emergency response agencies to develop a standard set of procedures in case of a major earthquake and tsunami. Though the exercise didn’t always simulate the urgency and panic of a real natural disaster, I could tell that it was successful in training the various agencies to work together to find common ground on what each other's responsibilities would be in a real life disaster.
The (Bi)cycle of production
By Judy Holtz
My team produced a video about the Portland Bicycle Relief Trials, which explored how the community could get involved in post-disaster relief efforts by using cargo bikes. Knowing that there was going to be such a large audience looking at the final product pushed us to produce the best video possible. It required a lot of planning ahead of time as we drove north to Portland for our shoot day. On arrival we got to work setting up on-site interviews, preparing for certain shots, and making sure we were all communicating effectively. It was a long shoot day, but we got loads of great footage while still having fun.
The next challenge was combing through all the footage that we had filmed in Portland and translating that into a cohesive story arc. Hours of editing interviews led us to our first edit, but we weren’t satisfied. In order to have the best interview audio, we were going to have to go back to Portland to re-shoot two key interviews.
Once we were pleased with the story arc and we moved on to the visuals. All that dynamic footage made choosing shots difficult, but hours later we had created a piece that communicated a strong story about earthquake preparedness.
My group and I felt very confident on the day of the event that our video would be well received. After the event ended, one of our subjects who’d attended approached me to say how great the video looked. This was a relief for me, and made the whole experience well worth the time and effort.
Conquering My Interviewing Nerves
By Lauren Garetto
My group and I produced a video about the science behind the upcoming earthquake that is projected to hit the Northwest at any moment. I was in charge of researching the topic, interviewing key influencers, and disseminating background information to the group. Before this class, I was completely unaware of the impact that this earthquake is supposed to have. Learning about how soon the earthquake could happen is jaw dropping and makes you want to better educate those around you.
We primarily focused on interviewing Chris Goldfinger, who is a professor at Oregon State University and an expert on the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Interestingly, he was in Japan during the enormous 9.0 earthquake that rocked the country in 2011. It was amazing to interview someone who is not only extremely knowledgeable on the subject, but who has also been recognized by multiple national media outlets.
At first I felt extremely nervous interviewing Goldfinger because of his extensive knowledge, and that fact that he would be a panelist at our event, but my fears were quickly relived once we began talking. He was very helpful in explaining what will happen in layman’s terms.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the live production, but I enjoyed being part of something that will impact so many people. It’s nice to know that the work I did will better educate the public on why this disaster will happen, and how people can prepare for it. Goldfinger stressed that starting the conversation about the earthquake is the most import thing we can do right now, and I’m happy that we could contribute.
Third Time’s The Charm
By Rhianna Gelhart
As a part of the “Preparing Your Pet” team for DWFTQ I had such a fun experience. I am an animal lover so I felt I was on the right team. We got to film on a beautiful farm in the presence of cats (and kittens), dogs (our subject’s dog, Drogo, was just a puppy), chickens, and horses. Each person on our team put forth tremendous effort to capture all the shots we needed.
I felt like we did a great job of relaying preparedness information to pet owners without dwelling on the actual disaster itself.
We hit several bumps along the way that made finishing the project more difficult. We had to re-shoot our interview with our subject, Dana, three times—the first time we had audio problems, and the second time we had lighting problems--and then we had trouble opening up the project on Final Cut due to version incompatibility. But, we made it all work. I think because everyone’s goal was to turn in the best work they could, no one was unwilling to reshoot or make the extra effort to get filming done. I think I was lucky to be a part of a team like that; it made for such a great learning experience without any outside pressure or anxieties.
I learned so much working with this team—from assembling light kits, to adjusting camera settings, to recording clean audio. This was my first time really being on a “set” and I loved it!
Inspired by Apple
By Shirley Chan
I worked as a producer for the Harvis app tutorial video. Additionally, I helped run the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication’s Twitter account for the duration of the event.
When my production group and I started brainstorming, we took inspiration from Apple iPhone commercials in conceptualizing our video. Our primary goal was to create a “how-to” video that was just as engaging as the app, while being informative. We conducted research on all aspects of the app to thoroughly explain the app’s purpose in the most simplistic way. To sum it up, Harvis is a mobile web application built for audience engagement by capturing real-time responses. It was challenging to imitate the all-white and minimalistic style of an iPhone commercial. However, it was satisfying to be able to implement my lighting skills in a studio setting, which is not an opportunity I get often.
The amount of detail and effort put into a television production was the biggest lesson I learned. Ensuring the flow of every aspect of the pre-production and production was tiresome, but its results come with such intrinsic satisfaction. Live tweeting was not an easy task either–I had to be meticulous, clever and quick on my feet. An hour goes by faster than I would have thought.
It was rewarding seeing all of our work mesh together, and even more so, knowing that our work is contributing to spreading awareness about an issue that Oregonians, and Pacific Northwesters, should be alert about.