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February 24, 2006

Blogs and Hurricane Katrina

Posted by Kim Peterson at 12:34 PM

I attended a fascinating talk yesterday by David Meeks, the city editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Jason Hewitt, who heads up Web strategy for Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Both talked about how they turned to blogs to report the news after Hurricane Katrina downed power lines and flooded buildings.

Here's the story in today's paper. Meeks is a wonderful raconteur and many of his stories didn't make it in. Here are a few:

-- Meeks' news team borrowed a newspaper delivery truck to get around town. Every newspaper company is leery about handing over expensive equipment to reporters, Meeks said, and in this case that worry was justified. Unable to see the flooded roads beneath the water, the team accidentally drove the truck into a New Orleans canal. They had to leave by canoe.

-- When the SWAT team came by to drop off some guns for their protection, the journalists had to get some quick training. Even so, they were terrified of touching the weapons. They laid them on the ground and pointed them in a corner. Later, someone accidentally cocked the gun and didn't know how to un-cock it, so he took it outside and fired it into the air. He didn't tell anyone he was going to do this, so everyone dove to the floor when the gun went off.

-- On a more serious side, Meeks said there's a vast amount of misinformation out about the flooding and the hurricane. "To this day, most of the United States does not understand what caused the flood in New Orleans," he said. Katrina's one-year anniversary will be a good time to get a sense of the Gulf Coast - where it stands and where it is headed, he said.

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