If a major disaster or event happens across the country from you, wouldn’t it be useful to just flip on your TV and watch an on-the-scenes newscast from a local station near the scene instead of waiting for the national networks to get there? With a TV streamer like a Google Chromecast or an Apple TV, plus the Web and your home network, you can do just that.
The basic recipe: Find a local TV station streaming the breaking news video online, pop it up to your television set from your computer or mobile device — and shazam, you and your family members can gather around the big screen to watch the story unfold, even if the national news outlets like CNN or the broadcast networks aren’t on it yet.
Take, for example, last Sunday morning when Napa Valley and the northern California Bay Area were rattled with a 6.0 earthquake. If you had friends or family there, your first thought was probably for their safety and you wanted to know what was going on. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube can report early eyewitness accounts, but you’d probably like a semi-comprehensive news narrative as well, right?
In the case of the Napa quake, I jumped online and quickly found KGO, San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, which happened to be streaming its live broadcast to the Web. It took me about 30 second to find the stream, start playing it in the web browser on my late-model Macbook Pro and then send it on up to the Apple TV connected to my Sony flatscreen using Apple’s AirPlay technology.
You can do similar things with one of Google’s $35 Chromecast sticks and the Google Cast extension for the Chrome browser. Other devices and ways to get the picture on big screen — like AV cables between laptop and television — are also out there.
The San Francisco station was actually cutting to a reporter who was minding the social media feeds so they could use the crowd-sourced photos, videos and personal accounts to help tell the story. Having all these news sources in one place really helps fill in the details. Dedicated Twitter feeds for weather or natural incidents, like the SF Quake Bot with updated from the US Geological Survey or the National Weather Service, are also quite informative.
Live streaming radio is another great source of news — WBUR in Boston and stations like it were a vital source of information for people around the world during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Local stations pop up quickly with a quick Web search. Try something like “San Francisco live new video” or something similar. If there’s a breaking news event in that area, odds are the local stations will be streaming their feeds.
You can also find sites that aggregate big lists of TV stations with streams from all over the world. If you want to browse for future reference, check out sites like the Live TV Center, Streema, WWITV or Live TV Café. Some aggregator sites may ask you to create an account or sign it with your Facebook credentials – that’s up to you. Sites like UStream and Livestream often carry news channels too.
So if something happens, check out a local source for the details. Newsgatherers there can often get on the scene faster, are more apt to cover the event for a longer period of time and you can zoom in from your part of the globe to get the information you need. Knowledge is power — and it can also make you feel better when you find out your peeps are okay.