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UCSD Guardian Staff Cover Wildfires in New Blog

Christine Clark | October 29, 2007

Staff of the UCSD Guardian did their part during the San Diego fires by providing up-to-the-minute news to the campus community. The UCSD Guardian covered the fires by maintaining a blog and broadcasting videos on their website for the first time in the history of the student newspaper.

The blog received several visitors and responses from readers all over the world.

The UCSD Guardian celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2007 and the newspaper launched its new website this fall.

The new website allows the UCSD Guardian staff to broadcast blogs and videos, but those features hadn’t been utilized before the 2007 wildfires, according to the UCSD Guardian’s Editor in Chief Charles Nguyen.

Harris Fire (Photo / Erik Jepson)
Associate Photo Editor Erik Jepsen traveled to the Harrah's Rincon Casino to capture this image of a wildfire.

"We were planning blogs for hiatus about art and then the fires hit, " Nguyen said. "We decided to use that capability to cover something up-to-date, such as the fires."

He added that he felt an inherent duty to inform the UCSD community about the disaster.
Nguyen was at his home in Poway on Monday morning, Oct. 22 when he first decided to broadcast the blog. He collaborated with former UCSD Guardian Managing Editor, Vladimir Kogan, to teach the UCSD Guardian staff how to add content to the blog.

Kogan, who is a graduate student in the Political Science department, is a personal friend to Nguyen and serves as a consultant to the UCSD Guardian.

Nguyen came close to being evacuated from his home in Poway on Monday morning, but he decided to film the flames that were visible from his front yard and broadcast the video on the website.

Nguyen and his staff coordinated efforts to update the blog throughout the most intense days of the fires. They wrote short news blurbs that reported on the status of the wildfires, campus announcements and road closures around the county.

The staff put in long hours to upload the latest news stories and video on the website.
Nguyen said he didn’t mind working around-the-clock during the wildfires because he found the experience rewarding.

"The satisfaction was immediate because we would post information and get a response right away," Nguyen said.

The UCSD Guardian received several e-mails from concerned readers, including parents of UCSD students.

"We got e-mails from people who were abroad who wanted to know what was going on in La Jolla and if it was safe," Nguyen said.

On Monday, Oct. 22 the website received more than 10,000 hits, which is five times the normal amount of visitors.

Qualcomm Evacuation site (Photo / Mike Chi)
Guardian photographer Mike Chi went to the Qualcomm evacuation center and took this snap shot of the food donations to the evacuees.

By Wednesday, Oct. 24 the staff members decided to go out in the field to get video coverage of the fires and the evacuees.

Managing Editor Matt McArdle went to the Mira Mesa High School evacuation center to interview residents who were impacted by the fires.

He said he was affected by the experience because although he had done a lot face-to-face interviews, he had never interviewed people during an emergency situation.

"It was really humbling to talk to people who had lost everything that they had," McArdle said. "After talking to people who lost their home, it made me realize that this was actually real—and maybe I should stop thinking how my midterm got postponed."

Kogan said that the wildfire blogs are a sign of progress for the UCSD Guardian.
"From my conversations with Charles, this is his vision," Kogan said. "He wants to make the website a separate entity and make it interactive."

Nguyen added that he hopes the blogs will change the style of reporting for the UCSD Guardian.

"Our staff was great about all coming together on this," he said. "I think we knew that we were capable of reporting up-to-minute news."

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