The way we communicate and share news is changing. If you don't believe us, take a look at Jersey Shore Hurricane News on Facebook.  JSHN Founder Justin Auciello spoke at our forum last night about the exponential growth of his Facebook page during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.  People are starving for factual and timely information. Its that simple. Last night we brought together citizens journalists, traditional media reporters, government officials, and concerned residents -- to discuss how we can better adapt to the new media environment and how to better prepare for the changing climate and future storms. 

Justin AucielloWhile it may take time for our elected officials and traditional media companies to catch up to new media-- there are those that are leading the way already. New technology is opening up the ways that citizens & government interact, and creating opportunities for citizens to be part of the dialogue.   

Keynote speaker Jeff Jarvis said it best, laying the priorities for the next few years: 

- Encourage our Elected Officials to Learn & Use New Communications Tools -- Are our neighbors, elected officials, emergency management providers, and even the government entities on Facebook and Twitter? Are they using online tools like Ushahidi?

- Encourage Better Planning and Preparation -- When the power goes out and the cell towers are knocked down, residents can't rely on social media. It becomes  a person to person conversation, block by block. How do we better communicate under those circumstances?

- We need a new platform to better facilitate communication during an emergency.  Not everyone is using social media, and many people can't even use social media during a storm. What other tools can be developed?

- Need to find means to support continued investigative journalism to continue probing and finding solutions. Its with a journalistic eye we can see a clearer picture. 

Our panelists offered up great tips too, Justin Auciello proved how powerful one person can be. As a concerned citizen Justin started Jersey Shore Hurricane News in the wake of Hurricane Irene, he recognized there was a need to distribute timely and accurate information. Since its founding in 2011, the Facebook site now has nearly 200,000 "contributors" and has been a constant source of trusted information.  

Colleen O'Dea from NJSpotlight.com gave a great overview about data journalism and its practical uses. Download the Tip Sheet here.  As Colleen told the crowd, any one can master how to use a spread sheet. That's half the battle. Once you learn how to use a spreadsheet or create a map, a powerful story can begin to be told. Check out Colleen's map assessing number of homes damaged by Sandy, or this map breaking down how much sandy will cost our communities.

Michael Lemonick discussed his work as an environmental reporter at Time Magazine and now ClimateCentral.org, and the various challenges there are trying to communicate complex scientific information.  

Check out the videos:  Jeff Jarvis keynote speech and our expert panel.

View the Flickr slideshow from the event. 

Take the Citizen Journalism Class.

Download Shining Light in Dark Spaces.

Download the Data Journalism Tip Sheet.