Highlighting the continuing role of newspapers as public services, The New York Times and The The Wall Street Journal have both lifted their online paywalls for coverage of
Hurricane Sandy, giving readers free access to vital information about the impending emergency.
In addition to frequently updated reporting on the gigantic storm, visitors to the Web sites can find tips for preparing for weather emergencies, lists of school closings (now universal in the New York metro area), maps showing evacuation zones and the location of shelters, and updates from local, state and federal authorities.
The NYT lifted the paywall for hurricane coverage on Sunday evening, with a prominent note on the NYT Web site informing visitors that “the Times is providing free unlimited access to storm coverage on nytimes.com and its mobile apps.” Previously, the NYT provided free access during Hurricane Irene, which threatened New York City in August 2011.
Meanwhile, the WSJ Web site informed readers that “The Wall Street Journal Web site is free to all visitors today,” extending free access to non-hurricane-related content on Monday. Thus, readers can also get free access to general news and financial reporting, at least for one day.
Although Sandy is not expected to make landfall in New Jersey until Monday afternoon or evening, storm surges and heavy rain were already reported along the East Coast on Monday morning. A barrage of announcements from local, state and federal authorities made clear that the storm is a serious public safety issue.
NJ Governor Chris Christie and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg have ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents from low-lying areas; all public transportation has been suspended for the duration of the storm. Utility providers have warned that power outages could last up to 10 days in some places.
President Obama and Mitt Romney have canceled campaign events, and President Obama has returned to Washington, D.C. to oversee the emergency response.