Where USF faculty, students and graduates are invited to talk about journalism and its problems and opportunities. This blog is not affiliated with the University of San Francisco, nor is the university responsible for any of the opinions expressed herein -- though it is certainly responsible for the people who entertain those opinions, having educated them. They make us proud.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

USF and the Destruction of New Orleans

George Sanchez writes from Monterey:

more from knight-ridder's biloxi, MS paper. just to let you know, they've put out the word for reporters to lend a hand and go out to Biloxi for stretches of at least two weeks. i've volunteered. I think I have a good shot at the assignment, but we'll see

Also, the Jesuit colleges, including USF, are volunteering to take in students from Loyola New Orleans. Word is we might get some.

Addendum: George forwarded this message about K-R's Biloxi paper. It concerns journalists trying to do their job. I recall after the earthquake here in '89, people told me how heartened they were when the Chronicle hit the street. It wasn't just the news Radio and TV supplied that. It was the simple tangible fact the product existed. It was symbolic, and there was comfort in the symbolism. The network bigfeet came in and broadcast from specially built platforms in front of the Marina and the Cypress Structure. I don't think anyone found comfort in that.

Biloxi: Reinforcements Arriving at Paper; Community Situation Deteriorating

5 p.m. ET Wed., Aug. 31

We've heard from the folks in Biloxi today; here's a very fast update:

They still have no email service, Internet connectivity or phone service. We have some satellite phones in place (though a couple have stopped working; we have phone magician Bob McFarlin from KR Miami on the way.) So our communications are extremely limited.

They've heard from about half of our 240 Biloxi employees. They're starting to send out search parties to check whether the others are at their homes.More reinforcements are arriving from throughout Knight Ridder. A couple of those people have arrived in RVs with supplies. More are enroute.

People at the newspaper are sleeping on the floor. We've been able to get enough food and water there to keep them going, and more is arriving with the reinforcements.

However, we need to strictly control how many people head that way; "life support" is a very real factor right now.

Financial support is in place; we're already (or about to be) able to cash personal checks for $200 each day just to get some cash in their hands. We will have credit union reps there imminently to process low-interest $5,000 loans guaranteed by Knight Ridder.

An EAP counselor will be on hand beginning tomorrow to offer everything from counseling to assistance with FEMA emergency funding forms.

We're working on getting assistance with other kinds of insurance claims, etc.The newspaper was able to distribute 12,000 of Tuesday's 20,000 copies of the paper. They printed 20,000 again today, 24 pages in two sections. The Red Cross has also asked for bulk copies to distribute.

Columbus continues to be the editing/layout/printing hub for the newspaper, which is being trucked down to Biloxi.Tony Ridder, Art Brisbane and Larry Olmstead went to the paper Tuesday to offer support and reassurance. They report that our people are making good progress on getting organized on the most important fronts: developing logistics to keep operating; finding and helping our employees; producing and distributing the newspaper. There is some concern that the newspaper office is an oasis in the midst of a devastated area; people are beginning to come by asking about water and food. We are working on increasing security there.

As more journalists head that way to cover what is rapidly becoming an even bigger story, we have turned over coordination of all reporters, photographers and assigning editors - and all story assignment responsibility - to KR Washington Editor Clark Hoyt. This is essential to make the most of our resources, eliminate duplicated efforts and provide the broadest coverage we can to our readers.

Information will be coming later today on a Knight Ridder Fund to accept donations to help our colleagues. We'll be asking someone at each newspaper to collect and coordinate those donations - DO NOT send checks to corporate yet!

Check the news stories on www.sunherald.com or www.krwashington.com.

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