By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published May 22, 2013 at 4:31 PM

We’ve become accustomed to watching local TV broadcasts to deliver the news, and especially tune in when news breaks. Monday, when a large tornado leveled communities in Oklahoma, we tuned in.

"There are several layers to it," WITI-TV Fox 6 general manager Chuck Steinmetz said, walking through local stations on serving the community with weather warnings, to covering the event, the response, the damage and the relief efforts to recovery.

"With the picture and sound (broadcast media) can capture the moment and show that story like no one else really can," he said.

Steinmetz and news director John LaPorte dispatched a crew not only to send back reports, but to also assist a sister station in the market.

"Ben Handelman is there to help the local station," Steinmetz said, "to help tell people where to go to get help, what the Salvation Army can do, where to get supplies …"

Closer to home, the Fox 6 crew worked with the Red Cross to hold a telethon from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, and throughout the morning today. By noon, the efforts raised just shy of $85,000. The Fox 6 phone bank number 414-586-2100 will be open from 5 to about 10:30 p.m. tonight as well.

"We are also running a crawl to thank those who have donated," Steinmetz said. "Jeremy of Beaver Dam donated $50 bucks, that just scrolled on the screen."

Steinmetz said that their partner group of Clear Channel radio stations were also assisting in getting word out about the local efforts.

Other local media outlets also found ways to rally community support.

"I was grateful to be able to support the Red Cross through the event at WTMJ," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

He participated in an on-air telethon on WTMJ-TV Ch. 4.

"I told viewers that if they could hit $40 K, I'd personally chip in $5 K. My good friend, mayor Steve Scaffidi of Oak Creek who was also there, was the first to chip in and I'm happy we reached that goal.

"I talked to Steve about how proud we both were to represent citizens who step up to help others in a time of need. We have both seen support come into our community from other compassionate communities around the country when we needed it and we both cherish the charitable impulse that is so much a part of what makes this country and state so great," Abele said.

For WTMJ, meteorologist Brian Gotter is on scene, sending back reports from Oklahoma. But for local viewers, the telethon offers a chance to help.

"Local broadcasters really can make a difference in our communities, and this is one way we can use the reach and power of broadcasting to lend a helping hand to people hundreds of miles away," said Steve Wexler, executive vice president of the Journal Broadcast Group.

Kidd and Elizabeth of WMYX-FM 99.1 teamed up with the news crew at WISN-TV Ch. 12 for a group of Red Cross telethons on Tuesday.

"As broadcast journalists who cover tragedy and devastation far too often, we just wanted to do whatever we could to help," said Jan Wade, WISN president and general manager.  "Working with the Red Cross is such a natural partnership for us since they do so much for so many.  We hope the money raised through our phone bank will give the victims in Oklahoma  a small amount of comfort."

Meteorologist Sally Severson is in Moore, Okla., to send back reports on the damage and relief efforts.

"The Oklahoma tornado is not just a national story. Its impact is felt locally and worldwide," WISN news director Chris Gegg said. "Many of our viewers are being so generous, by donating money to relief efforts. WISN 12’s Sally Severson traveled to Oklahoma to provide our viewers with distinctive coverage.  She is giving them an up-close, personal view of the damage and destruction."

For WDJT-TV Ch. 58, the news and promotions department worked together to get information on how to help through messages on all of its English-speaking platforms. That’s WDJT, WMLW, MyTV on the digital broadcast tiers.

"We wanted to use our resources to let people know how to help," said news director Genie Garner. "We did it in a different way."

In addition to local news coverage with Michael Schlesinger in the field, WDJT promotions director Dale Palecek turned over all of the station’s digital boards to a message to text Red Cross to help relief efforts. The team also produced a round of PSAs with Mark McGinnis.

"We are also working with B93.3 in their auctioning off a Funjet trip," Garner said, saying the radio station worked with the morning crew to raise funds through a trip for two to RIU Palace Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

The vacation package was valued at $2,860 and included airfare for two and four nights at the all-inclusive destination.

"We’re doing what we can do to help the people in Oklahoma.  The Red Cross is working nonstop, and they need money for food, water, and supplies.  The winning bidder will be supporting that effort and getting an incredible vacation experience at the same time," said Stan Atkinson, WLDB-FM B93.3 program director and afternoon host.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.