RTNDA Session Stresses Continued Post-Katrina Coverage


The 2006 hurricane season is less than six weeks away, but broadcasters who have covered Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on the Gulf Coast say they are still struggling to cover that storm's far-ranging damage.

“There are basic quality-of-life issues,” said Sandy Breland, news director for WWL New Orleans, speaking at the opening session of the Radio Television News Directors Association convention Sunday in Las Vegas. “There is no housing, no schools, no hospitals. People are still waiting for FEMA trailers.”

Breland joined New Orleans media executives including WDSU New Orleans News Director Anzio Williams, as well as several network representatives, including CBS correspondent Lee Cowan, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, and CNN executive Jack Womack on a panel to reflect on the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s aftermath.

While the news media did a tremendous job, Williams said it is important to keep the story at the forefront of local and national news. For example, WDSU produced a New Orleans mayoral debate, which was carried on MSNBC. “Part of our job is to keep it out there,” Williams said. “We have to be vigilant.”

Since Katrina, local TV and radio stations have scrutinized their emergency plans. WWL(AM) radio News Director Dave Cohen said his station will add remote studios and mobile studios, making it easier for reporters and local public officials to come on the air.

Both WWL and WDSU are adding more communication devices, since most means of communications were down during Katrina.