Once the weather service issued a tornado warning for the Joplin, Mo., area on May 22, local TV and radio stations followed protocol for severe weather, ramping up their weather coverage in the 90 minutes or so before the twister hit at around 5:30 p.m. either with cut-ins or going wall-to-wall. But such alerts had become so frequent, especially lately, that even the station staffers themselves did not take them as seriously as subsequent events demonstrated they should have. After the storm hit, news teams scrambled to figure out what exactly had happened and how they could help their striken community.
The Big Four affiliates in Joplin, Mo., are working around the clock to cover the devastation wrought by Sunday’s tornado. With much of the city in ruins, relatively small news departments and employees displaced from their homes, local broadcasters asked the Missouri Broadcasters Association for assistance in finding news staff from outside the market that could help in the coverage and for diesel fuel to keep emergency generators running.