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Papers host live webchats on the weather

They say there’s nothing the British public likes talking about so much as the weather – and this week two regional dailies proved the point.

As arctic conditions swept across the UK, both The Herald, Plymouth, and the Hull Daily Mail decided to host live webchats on the subject.

Almost 3,500 people took part in the Herald’s chat, staged using CoverItLive technology, with more than 2,000 questions and comments posted over the course of five hours.

As well as providing a forum for debate, it also enabled the paper to glean further information about the weather chaos which it was then able to pass on to readers.

Web editor Neil Shaw said: “The original idea was to use it as a rolling news service because information was coming in so quickly.

“But it very quickly became more interactive with a lot of people coming on and asking specific questions about which buses were running, which schools were closed and so on.”

One reader with a long memory asked whether the shops were going to run out of food, aware that this actually happened in the big freeze of 1963 when villages around Plymouth were cut off and the RAF had to drop food to starving residents.

On this occasion, however, the answer was “no” as all the major routes into the city remained open.

The Mail also used CoverItLive for its webchat, which attracted 2,006 visitors and 601 comments.

Posts submitted by readers included story tip-offs that the paper followed up on the web and in print, including the suspension of bin collections in Hull, meaning Christmas rubbish continued to pile up outside homes.

Editor John Meehan said: “The web allows us to become a true information service – to provide people with immediate breaking news, to relay useful information rapidly and to engage in conversation with members of the public about events and issues that matter to them, such as the big freeze.

“During our live and interactive weather service many people posed questions to us about such things as travel conditions and the impact on services, which our reporters were able to answer rapidly.”


Anonymous (08/01/2010 09:01:02)
Ditto. Was in Romania a couple of years ago in March, and it was – 10, and heavy snow. If we can’t cope with weather that lasts a few days, then god knows how we would cope with it for a few months….preparation, preparation, preparation. Sadly, it’s lacking in UK….