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In the wake of the quake: Hustle leads to local, national coverage

Early Friday, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake just off the coast of Japan spawned deadly tsunamis that killed thousands, devastated several areas of the country and rocked buildings hundreds of miles inland. The tragedy, of course, continues to play out this week, and there are years if not decades of reconstruction efforts ahead for the Japanese.

Back here at University Communications, we found ourselves in an interesting position after manager of news Kelly Bartling learned that UNL assistant economics professor Carlos Asarta (above) was in the 1,100-foot Tokyo Tower at the time of the quake. Asarta, who was in Japan for a seminar, had the presence of mind to capture this video of the world rocking and swaying, people hitting the floor, and others screaming as the shockwaves hammered the tower.

By the end of the day, Asarta’s videos had made the local media rounds, landing on local newspaper websites and TV broadcasts, then leaped up to MSNBC.com and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. This week, the videos continue to draw thousands of viewers.

This all happened because of a lot of quick work. Prof. Asarta thought fast and captured some amazing video of the quake, and then, importantly, was in e-mail contact with us back in Lincoln. It also happened because David Fitzgibbon, UNL’s director of broadcast news services, worked with Asarta on Friday morning to get the quake video and then, wisely, to have Asarta shoot this short first-person recollection of the moments after the quake. Once the videos were loaded onto UNL’s Media Hub and its YouTube channel, “Fitz” and others in UComm began getting the word out via e-mail and social media. The rest is history.

It was fast, quality work from our broadcast news team, who also whipped out two other videos Friday that helped explain the quake, the tsunami and its effect on Japan. First, Asarta’s fellow UNL economist Scott Fuess — an expert on the Japanese economy — ably discusses what the devastation may mean economically for the country. That led to a few local interviews for Fuess. Second, UNL engineering professor David Admiraal gives a quick explainer about how a tsunami occurs. After seeing our tweets about that video, a colleague at Universe Today included Admiraal’s comments in this story, which was also distributed to a number of other online media outlets over the weekend and early this week.

When there’s a devastating natural disaster in another part of the world, it’s a certainty that local, regional and national media will instantly be looking for sources — either on the ground in the area in question or those back home with specialized knowledge — who can help them explain what’s happening half a world away. On Friday, UNL had both kinds. And because of some good hustle, our content got out very quickly and very broadly.

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