Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keeping Promises

Watching "NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams" tonight brought me back to March 2006 and Washington, D.C. where the Radio Television News Directors Foundation held their annual First Amendment dinner. It is a time for broadcasters to strut their stuff; hundreds of people tucked into tuxedo wear, a veritable panoply of penguin wanna-bees.

Sometimes an event just for journalists with a capital J (nice way to say those way too serious about the profession) this event was much more; it was an opportunity to recognize the heroic efforts made by broadcast journalists and our brothers and sisters in print in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

I still remember the power of the folks from along the Gulf Coast, riding out the storm and the horror afterwards and tens of thousands of people relocating from home.

I spent a couple hours talking with WWL's News Director Dave Cohen; this link to the Times Picayune story on just what he and other radio/TV pros did during those difficult hours and when those turned into gut-wrenching days, weeks and months comes close to paying full respect to the lifeline he and others became for people who couldn't get answers.

Among those in Washington the year after to pay tribute: NBC's Williams, who reported from New Orleans and other locales back in 2005. He promised that NBC wouldn't forget the lost, the displaced, the relocated; he kept that pledge, along with Cleveland's own Martin Savidge leading much of the network's reporting on the recovery of America's south coast. Marty shared with Ohio's AP Broadcasters this summer what it's been like covering the aftermath of Nature's war on man as well as our wars on our fellow man.

It's very easy to bash the MSM for some of the screwy and goofy stuff we see, hear and read. Many times those of us IN the MSM are hard-pressed not to agree; but Williams and NBC deserve great credit for not only their work two years after Katrina but for their work during the last two years to make sure we don't turn the damaged into the forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ed for the interesting article about NBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina…the network has done an outstanding job of keeping this story on the minds of the rest of the country, even though it’s two years past.

    Unlike 9/11, this has become a forgotten story in the minds of many. Iraq dominates the headlines. New Orleans gets only a mention when something bad happens again. The folks struggling to recover in Mississippi & the rest of Louisiana are basically ignored.

    Way too often in this business, we jump on the hot story of the day – then move on – because someone at the top believes the story is no longer of interest to their viewers. As I call it, the “wow” factor wears off and we soon forget.

    NBC has chosen – and wisely - to keep the story going…and follow it from basically start to finish. They’ve established a news bureau right in New Orleans with a staff who works on nothing but covering this story. It will be years before the region returns to a sense of normal. People are still living in FEMA Trailers, complete beachfronts are desolate and some places still look untouched from the storm’s fury.

    It’s important for all us in the media industry to remember to follow up on the stories we cover, whether they are local or not. Sometimes, the best part of the story doesn’t happen for weeks, months or even years later – and that’s why I, too, commend Brian Williams and NBC – and all the other news organizations who have devoted the time and the resources to bringing us this still unfolding, real-life drama.