While it is just a day shy of the anniversary of Hurricane
Katrina's arrival, and the lethal storm's memories are everywhere across DMA
No. 52, the New Orleans stations are greeting Hurricane Isaac's arrival with a
far lower level of anxiety. The weather is mostly calm in the market, a few
hours before the brunt is to arrive Tuesday evening.
"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
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."