Hurricane Sandy flooding

Flood waters enter the Long Island Rail Road's West Side Yard

Credit: Image by MTA Long Island Rail Road on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
The Wall Street Journal launched a 'post-storm commuting' live stream this morning, which used a hashtag to collect together travel updates from its own journalists living in New Jersey, reflecting on the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Using the WSJ's new stream technology, previously used for events such as the Olympics and Hurricane Sandy, the WSJ invited its own staff to live-tweet the rush hour this morning to "create a sort of scattered snapshot of the morning commute", Aaron Rutkoff, online news editor for the Greater New York section and WSJ's Metropolis blog, told Journalism.co.uk.

Reporters and editors taking part filed updates using the hashtag #njrush, with the stream set up "to absorb all tweets from designated users with that hashtag, as well as all tweets from the major transit agencies in New Jersey".

In the days after Hurricane Sandy struck "one of the big stories each morning was the post-storm commute into and out of New York City", Rutkoff explained.

"With severe damage to just about every part of the regional mass-transit system and paralysing gas shortages, the morning rush hour became a daily test of just how far things remained from normal.

"Greater New York dispatched upwards of a dozen reporters to various parts of the transit system and cobbled together an omnibus narrative – a traditional approach that worked well but consumed a lot of journalistic manpower as we tried to cover a huge transit system that carries millions of people per day. This method continued for about a week after the storm."

But at the same time as this was happening, the newspaper's own journalists travelling from New Jersey were experiencing the difficulties first-hand.

"As Greater New York shifted away from broad commute narratives, we realised that we could create a sort of scattered snapshot of the morning commute by tapping the resources we already had in the field: our weary Garden State colleagues."

"It's not the same as a sweeping narrative, but the sum total of staff tweets over rush hour adds up to an interesting and granular look at problems that remain in the transit system."

After testing the idea by reporting the evening rush hour on Friday (9 November), the news outlet launched the project this morning and the WSJ intends to "keep this going", Rutkoff added.

"In upcoming rounds we will try to pull more tweets by non-staffers using the hashtag into the stream. For this morning at least, we'll be using Storify to pull together tweets from the public – something we have done previously in our post-storm transit coverage."

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