'Quiet Confidence' Prevails at NOLA Stations as Isaac Arrives
TV outlets, infrastructure appear prepared for newly christened hurricane
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/28/2012 4:56:04 PM
"The seventh anniversary of Katrina creates a little more anxiety on the part of everyone who went through it," says Joe Cook, president and general manager of WVUE. "But this is no Katrina."
Upgraded to official Category 1 hurricane status Tuesday afternoon, Isaac is up against a $15 billion flood protection system built by the Army Corps of Engineers. "There's a quiet confidence here," says Tod Smith, president and general manager at WWL. "We're not seeing the number of evacuations we've seen in the past."
The New Orleans stations, with wall-to-wall coverage since the early morning of Aug. 27, are also utilizing experience gained during Katrina. WWL is getting all kinds of help from its Belo siblings, as stations as far away as St. Louis and even Seattle have sent personnel. Smith saw the way Belo stations support each other in extreme weather when he was GM at WVEC Norfolk last year during Hurricane Irene.
"We've got folks from many sister stations helping out on camera and behind the scenes," he says. "It's one of the most helpful things about being a part of a group like Belo."
WVUE, the Fox affiliate, is in a different situation -- the lone station owned by Louisiana Media Company and local kingpin Tom Benson. Cook says the WVUE crew is getting by on its rich market experience.
"Our little army is doing real well," he says. "Our people know the back roads and know where they're going."
The station ran Fox primetime on its subchannel, a Bounce TV multicast, Monday night to free up the main channel for news. The other Big Four stations stayed in pattern. WVUE is also simulcasting its signal to four Cumulus radio stations.
WVUE put up big numbers in late news Monday night, its 17.4 household rating/27 share ahead of WWL's 11.8/18.
Other major news outlets in the market include Hearst TV's WDSU and Tribune's WGNO.
The Times-Picayune newspaper is slated to decrease circulation to three times a week this fall, while retaining a steady news presence on NOLA.com. New Orleans residents have a deep connection to NOLA.com, a lifeline when power was out and newspapers were not delivered in the wake of Katrina.
The TV stations too are keeping their websites hopping with the latest on Isaac's approach. "We're hunkering down," says Cook. "We expect it to be a rough night and a rough day tomorrow."
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