Friday, September 09, 2005

"He Felt I Had Become Too Emotional." But New Orleans Radio Reporter May Have Been First of Many

When Trying To Keep Calm Just Isn't An Option
Dan Barry's piece in the N.Y. Times today on how New Orleans radio powerhouse WWL has served as the lifeline for its beleaguered region showed how quickly events overtook its reporters and perhaps forever changed how they do their jobs. Others are bound to follow suit.

Back at the downtown studio, many employees managed to flee by car or, eventually, by helicopter. Others, including the morning news anchor, David Blake, and his family, got stuck for several days, so he reported what he saw from the broken-window studio - namely, the infamous chaos at the Superdome, where crushes of people waited and withered.

His early reports had to be redone before they could be broadcast, he recalled.
"My news director said I sounded angry and frustrated," he said. "He felt I had become too emotional."

Of course, Blake's approach became the rule rather than the exception, but his experience highlights just how hard it was for journos to grab onto the extent of Katrina's devastation.

The news director Blake refers to is Dave Cohen, an extremely capable newsman, whose passion for his city has long been reflected in the freelance reports he files for CBS News. Cohen's voice betrayed a mix of exhaustion and resignation, as if he felt betrayed by Mother Nature for laying waste to his town. But outright emotion was not evident. There would be time for that later.

Cohen had no choice but to focus on the story at hand albeit one that would have been impossible to comprehend just days before and was all but impossible to fully grasp even days after the levees breached. This wasn't supposed to happen, right?

Peering out at the Superdome from what was left of WWL's downtown studios, Blake was in much the same position. If he slipped a bit from the detached observer mode that was his usual M.O., that made him no different from the rest of New Orleans.

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