Posts about News

Yahoo’s man at the front

So Yahoo hired Kevin Sites to report on war for them. On the one hand, sure, that’s cool: multimedia man hired by the thoroughly modern media company. But does anyone else think it’s strange to have a site and a reporter who covers just war? Yahoo emphasizes that this doesn’t mean they are “building any kind of news organization.” So that means, instead, that they’re just going for the bloody bits?

Give

Glenn Reynolds has a good roundup of charities working in Katrina’s wake.

In response to a call from Hugh Hewitt, Truth Laid Bear put up a great resource to direct bloggers’ and blog readers’ charity here. This is aimed at a big push tomorrow. Keep an eye on those sites.

And also, here’s the Red Cross.

Should New Orleans be rebuilt?

It’s an indelicate question but one that needs to be asked: Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Or how much of it should be?

At a press conference with the governor and legislators just now, vows were made: “We’re going to be reinventing New Orleans…. Can and will New Orleans be rebuilt? Absolutely!”

But… Having visited the city often in my last job, I was always struck by its poverty and its lack of a workable economy. Tourism is pretty much the only industry. The food is great. The attitude is fun. But big companies had left.

And… Does it make sense to rebuild homes and offices in a place that can be destroyed all too easily, putting thousands of lives at risk? Is that the right thing to do?

And… Is that the best use of our tax and insurance dollars? Everytime the Mississippi floods up river, there are those who say that we should stop paying to rebuild that which has been destroyed before. And, in fact, we have invested government money in moving people away from certain danger so we can stop paying to rebuild. It’s an investment in their safety.

I’m not suggesting that what’s left of New Orleans should be bulldozed and abandoned. But I will suggest that, indeed, the city may need to be reinvented. How?

Perhaps it should go with its strengths and be rebuilt as a tourist destination before all its restaurants have branches in Vegas. Perhaps it should be smaller and rather than investing in rebuilding, the money should in some cases be spent on relocation.

What should become of New Orleans?

Evacuating

My former colleagues at Nola.com and the Times-Picayune have evacuated the hurricane bunker in the newspaper’s building.

: So the TV reports were wrong twice: They said this was going to be catastrophic. Then they said it wasn’t. Now it is.

On WWL’s stream, they just had on scientists from LSU’s hurricane center showing computer models that demonstrate just how the water from a breached levee will take over the city.

They also quoted a tourist from Philadelphia who watched looting comparing New Orleans to Baghdad (which means it won’t be long before someone compares it to Saigon).

: LATER: I’m watching incredible live coverage right now of helicopter rescues inside New Orleans on the WDSU stream.

WWL is reporting martial law in Jefferson Parish; people will be allowed back into their homes only to get essentials in a week and then will not be allowed back in again for at least another week.

WDSU is reporting that the streets around the stadium are now flooded and without electricity or working plumbing inside, it is “fetid.” But the thousands there are not allowed to leave.

: LATER: Just saw Sen. Mary Landrieu after a ride over New Orleans begging people who’ve been evacuated to stay away as officials try to save those who are still there. She said those who are outside should “get on your knees” and thank God for being alive.

: Found this New Orleans blog sending updates while his laptop battery holds out [via Houston Chronicle tech blogger Eric Berger]:

Well. The looting is getting pretty bad here now. Almost all the grocery stores are being looted. Some kids across the street came up carring tons of stuff. I asked if they found a place open. SOrta…THey were just coming back from stealing cigarrettes and soda and beer from Roberts. GOod job scum-bags.
THey are now saying it will be about a month to two months before power is restored all over. I think I might need to leave town for a while. I’ll have to see.

Again, thanks for caring guys. It’s heart-warming. If I don’t find a way to recharge my laptop, there won’t be many updates coming. But I’m alive and in one piece. Everything else is gravy, yes?

: LATER: Here’s the demonstration that LiveJournal is, indeed, a community where people know and care for each other: Look at the updates from and about friends in the hurricane.

Layers of tragedy

We’re only beginning to hear the real stories of tragedy from the hurricane.

This morning on Good Morning America, a reporter stopped a man in the street just to ask how he was and she heard how his home split in half and he lost his wife when she told him to stop holding her so he could save their children and grandchildren. The reporter could not stop from crying. I don’t think anyone could.

And then a reporter — Robin; I lost her last name — went to her hometown, Gulfport, and the shock was clear. The anchor in New York asked whether he family was OK and she could not stop from crying. Who could? They were safe. She said that in other cases, she would have brought her cameas with her, but she did not; this was too private, too difficult.

Reporters are human, too.

Storm punch(lines)

Oh, to be Jon Stewart today. The moments of unselfconscioius self-parody on the news channels keep flying by faster than a garbage-can lid in a hurricane. Well, in fact, we’re getting live reports of just such lids flying by on FoxNews and on CNN, Anderson Cooper reports on a single barge in the Mississippi. They all can do little more than report on what they happen to see where they happen to be. On CNN this morning, they cut to a guy so he could use his little wind-meter (quite the gadget in this storm) and he couldn’t it working and then said things were actually pretty calm, as he demonstrated when his meter got up to only 4 mph. My favorite is that CNN has dubbed a satellite truck Hurricane One. I do hope they have more than one person in it, so we can get Team Coverage from Hurricane One.

: Please do add in the moments of news self-parody you see today in the comments.

: LATER: So much for Hurricane One.

Blogging in the wind

Nola.com editor Jon Donley is blogging from inside New Orleans, in the Times-Picayune’s hurricane bunker:

OK, it’s official, Katrina is beginning to knock on our door. We’ve already been without main power for about two hours . . . no air conditioning (not to harp on that) . . . flashlights to get around the building. Thankfully, no televisions turned to helmet-haired weathercreatures yapping away about worst-case scenarios. Times-Picayune staffers huddled around a radio, or gathered at the second-floor landing, where there’s a view of the newspaper’s front drive circle.

The scene out the windows is frightening, and it’s just beginning. Gusts slamming the big windows, and people reflexively ducking, knowing they’ve got to break. Trees whipping as if they’re about to be uprooted.

: Terry Teachout is keeping a good directory of hurricane blogging.
: Kaye Trammel is blogging via Blackberry from LSU. Ernie the Attorney couldn’t get out of Dodge. [via Winer]

: UPDATE: My friend Jon Donley got a good picture of the damage to the Superdome.

: NowPublic just put up a board for people to connect with those who are missing — or at least hard to reach — in the storm.

: MSNBC obviously couldn’t get to the satellite feed from its New Orleans affiliate, so it put the station’s web feed on the air.

I watched WDSU, New Orleans’ station, over its stream. The station staff was evacuated, so they were broadcasting from a fellow Hearst station and they also put up streams from other local stations. The power of networking.

: AND FOR DESSERT: I have to say, in spite of everything, the Times-Picayune had great red beans and rice.

The storm

A great place to keep track on Hurricane Katrina is the hurricane center at Nola.com, one of the services I used oversee. Jon Donley, the editor there, is a weather madman.

hurricaneedition.jpg
See tomorrow’s “hurricane edition” of the Times-Picayune here. And no one will be in the town to read it.

Here is the disaster scenario, put forward in a scary Times-Picayune series about The Big One:

…emergency officials’ worst-case scenario: hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water pouring over the levees into an area averaging 5 feet below sea level with no natural means of drainage.

That would turn the city and the east bank of Jefferson Parish into a lake as much as 30 feet deep, fouled with chemicals and waste from ruined septic systems, businesses and homes. Such a flood could trap hundreds of thousands of people in buildings and in vehicles. At the same time, high winds and tornadoes would tear at everything left standing. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people would die, said John Clizbe, national vice president for disaster services with the American Red Cross.

“A catastrophic hurricane represents 10 or 15 atomic bombs in terms of the energy it releases,” said Joseph Suhayda, a Louisiana State University engineer who is studying ways to limit hurricane damage in the New Orleans area. “Think about it. New York lost two big buildings. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 30 in the area impacted and the people lost, and we know what could happen.”

Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.

Read the rest of the scenario. This is why they’re hightailing it out of there.

: Here‘s audio of Donley driving on the bridge going into New Orleans. He’ll be working out of the hurricane bunker at the T-P.

: From the Nola.com breaking-news blog, this terrifying warning from the weather service:

“Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer,” says the statement. “At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.
The statement says the majority of industrial buildings will become “non-functional,” with partial or complete wall and roof failure.
“All wood-framed low-rising apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure,” the statement said. “Concrete block low-rise apartments will sustain major damage, including some wall and roof failure.”
The statement says high-rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously, “a few to the point of total collapse.” And all their windows will blow out.
Airborne debris will be widespread, and may include heavy items — household appliances and light cars and trucks –and even sport utility vehicles and trucks will be moved.
“The blown debris will create additional destruction,” the statement said. “Persons, pets and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck.”

: More links from Rex Hammock and Rogers Cadenhead.

: Here, via Nola, is a list of New Orleans bloggers. Fleshbotter Jonno has a storm edition.
Another list of local bloggers here.

: Here are Nola.com cams; you see a deserted city. Lost Remote has media links.

: Here, via NowPublic, is the “before” shot we’ll be seeing after: An aerial image of New Orleans as it stands today:

: And here is a link to the Google satellite view of the Superdome and the French Quarter.

: Here‘s Donna at Southern Spaces writing from Mississippi on evacuating:

But the real horror is the number of homeless people who call New Orleans home. They’re the ones who truly are trapped. I’m bitching and griping because of the timing. Especially with the recent car repairs and fifteen other “inconveniences” that have sprung up recently. Fact is, I can get in my car and drive as far as I want….

…you make damn sure you pack a razor. A smart girl knows shaved legs are an absolute must. She might not have a bathttub upon her return, but she’s damn sure got a razor!! You also pack baseball caps for those inevitable bad hair days that are coming. And barettes to pull your hair up with. Especially if you have long hair. And you pack your cell chargers. I’ll be packing several….

Finally, you make it out to the yard. Things that you look at every day you suddenly realize will become a missle in a hurricane. So you move it to the barn or tie it up with those bunjee cords. It’s never finished. You’re never satisfied that you’ve remembered everything and thought of everything. You take one last look on your way out the door. The truth is, you don’t know if you’ll even have anything to come back to. You say a prayer, get in your car and then drive. We’re human. We’re going to stress, grieve, worry, lose sleep, not eat, become cranky…oh, it’s endless the emotions one goes through.

Read the rest.

: Max Sparber at the Daily Lush writes a simply wonderful report from Pat O’Brien’s where they were drinking — what else? — hurricanes:

NEW ORLEANS MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN, usually a laconic man with a neat moustache, shaved head, and sleepy eyes, has a panicky air about him on television tonight. He has just received a phone call from Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and the news was not good. Katrina, a monstrous hurricane swirling in the Gulf Coast, is making a beeline directly for New Orleans. Mayfield informed Mayor Nagin that in his entire career, Mayfield has never seen a storm like this. Mayfield strongly urged Nagin to make the evacuation of New Orleans mandatory; if there’s any political fallout, Mayfield said he would take full responsibility. On a local newscast, as the anchormen detail the growing storm, Nagin shouts a single word: “Leave!” …

There is a certain poignancy to tonight, though. After all, tonight Pat O’s is filled with tourists who might very literally be dead in the next few days — if the rumors are right, volunteers at DMORT are packing their body bags at this very moment. These very tourists are happily consuming a beverage that bears the name of the monster that might kill them in a bar that might be underwater within a day or so. If the unimaginable were to happen, these might be the last moments of these people in this bar in this city. Unless the most educated men in the study of weather are wrong in their best guess, a disaster named Katrina is coming to bury us all.

But, just at this moment, it is business as usual at Pat O’s, the busiest saloon in America, and “Stayin’ Alive” is playing throughout the bar.

: See also Storm Digest. [via Rubel] And Terry Teachout has more links. And here’s Joe Gandelman’s roundup.

: How long before this is called America’s tsunami?