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N.Y. Media Fumbles, Fights Its Way Through Sandy

Twitter jerk fools CNN, Letterman and Fallon tape shows, Gossip Girl grounded

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It was the biggest storm in New York in nearly 80 years, and while most of the city's media were prepared to meet the challenge, some were not. For example, the flooding on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange did not, in fact, take place.

CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers reported the alleged flood on Piers Morgan Tonight, citing the National Weather Service, which denied making the claim. After following the trail to an NWS message board, then to Twitter, it became apparent that a user calling himself @ComfortablySmug (who is followed by dozens if not hundreds of reporters) had been disseminating bad information all night—that ConEd was shutting down all power in New York City, that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was trapped in Manhattan, that the MTA had announced service closures for the rest of the week, and other falsehoods, many of which were retweeted or re-reported.

By Tuesday, BuzzFeed had outed @ComfortablySmug; he is Shashank Tripathi, the campaign manager for Christopher R. Wight, a Republican Congressional candidate from New York.

The damage was bad enough without any exaggeration: much of Queens neighborhood Breezy Point burned to the ground Monday Night night when a fire destroyed between 80 and 100 houses, forcing firefighters to attempt difficult rescues in the middle of the hurricane. Apparent looting was reported in Alphabet City, where floodwaters submerged cars and clogged storm drains, and while the MTA didn't announce specific service closures immediately, it did say the damage would take a long time to repair. The organization's Flickr page speaks for itself.

The film and television production industries were directly affected by the storm, as well: the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting revoked all shooting permits on Monday, halting production on the CW's long-running franchise Gossip Girl, NBC's musical theater drama Smash, ABC's freshman supernatural series 666 Park Avenue, and CBS Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary, among other currently filming series (though most would likely have taken a brief hiatus on Monday anyway).

Daily shows that in New York took the night off or made other plans; Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman both taped Monday's shows without audiences, and Comedy Central's flagship series The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report were canceled for the evening. Jimmy Kimmel was forced to scratch the first night of taping his show from Brooklyn, but the plan is to go ahead with Tuesday night's show. Meanwhile, CBS News will expand to an hour for the second night running this evening.

Several companies including GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer postponed earnings; all media earnings calls are taking place as scheduled as of this writing. With Tuesday's shutdown, the NYSE ended a hot streak running a century and change: the last time the stock exchange was closed for two consecutive days was 124 years ago during the Great Blizzard of 1888.