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Hurricane Sandy Creates a Teachable Moment

Reporting on a crisis - a plane crash, a tornado, an oil spill - is a common scenario for journalists. When crisis reporting popped up on the syllabus for the Knight School's News Reporting and Editing course in late October, instructor Mary Tabor didn't need to look far for a practice exercise. Hurricane Sandy had struck the East Coast on the previous day, and Tabor set students to work reporting on Charlotte connections to the storm.

Student Taylor Pinckney stepped out of class quickly to phone family members living in New York and New Jersey. Brock Baldwin, Melanie Bergen and Lucas Motta tracked the storm's impact on Charlotte as a transportation hub, the involvement of repair crews from Duke Energy, and interruptions to the financial industry at Charlotte operations of Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

"It's one thing to watch this on TV," Jersey City resident Christeen Badie Martinez told her friend, Queens student Konata Edwards. "But it's a whole lot different to experience it in person."

Tabor, a former reporter with The New York Times, regularly uses daily events to teach the news gathering process. "It's important to make the experience as realistic as possible," Tabor says. "What do you do when your first two sources don't answer their phones, and the third isn't allowed to talk to you? How can you be resourceful and develop accurate information under the pressure of a deadline? That's one of the key skills we're working to develop."

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