Maria Arce

Maria Arce will build a resource for journalists to learn to work with radio amateurs, also known as ham radio operators, who are willing to assist in times of natural disasters. The resource will outline the steps and training needed and include guidelines on replicating the radio and newsroom partnership networks she’s planning to create in Puerto Rico, California, Florida, Texas and Missouri during her fellowship.

Arce, a veteran bilingual journalist and digital specialist, is building a guide for newsrooms to partner with ham radio operators, who can provide much-needed data about weather and local conditions during natural disasters, when other forms of communication are often unusable.

Ham radio communication is regulated by the FCC, and operators can typically only communicate with each other — except during natural disasters, when they are allowed to report on their local communities.

Arce wants to make sure newsrooms are prepared to take advantage of this resource when disaster strikes; her plan is to create a network of partnerships between groups of radio operators all over the world and the newsrooms that can benefit from their services, a network that her guide will help other newsrooms replicate and expand upon. The guide will also feature a guide to the training and outreach required to work with ham radio operators.

“We think satellites can see everything, but that’s not true,” Arce said. “In the case of tornadoes, for example, you can report over the radio that this tornado just knocked down 10 power lines. That kind of information is something that the satellites can’t see.”