As Hurricane Irene approaches the upper east coast, property damage is of course a key concern—but Hurricane Irene is also, at least temporarily, knocking down some virtual walls—paywalls. Laura Hazard Owen reports on PaidContent that the New York Times and Newsday.com are both making hurricane coverage available to all readers for free. E-magazine service Zinio is also offering free issues of several electronic magazines to travelers stranded by the hurricane.
Of course, the usefulness of these free services depends on people being able to keep their connectivity during the storm. USA Today has a guide suggesting ways for people to do that. (And isn’t that a sign of the times? Disaster-preparedness used to be solely about making sure you had a good, sturdy storm shelter. Now it’s also about keeping your cell phone fully charged and getting gadgets that can recharge them from AA batteries.) If all else fails, you may have to fall back on actually talking to other people.