As anyone who's been near a TV set in the past forty-eight hours can tell you, the images coming out of the Gulf Coast region are nearing the unfathomable. While the human suffering of the refugees deserves all the attention, I tend to see things through the filter of an overworked viewfinder. Thus, a quick glance at the unprecedented challenges facing many media crews covering the Katrina's aftermath (with a grateful nod to Lost Remote).
During the storm, Weather Channel stud Jim Cantore and crew found themselves scrambling for higher ground as floodwaters poured into a Gulfport retirement home:
"We're not even shooting [video] anymore. We're basically in self-preservation [mode] right now. We're helping people put up boards and sandbags to keep the water from coming in. We've become part of the crew."
A Washington Post article describes how state-of-the-art gear and top-shelf talent aren't always enough when traversing such a hostile landscape:
'NBC anchor Brian Williams got his satellite truck trapped in downtown flooding, a tire and the gas tank damaged. His team stayed as the water rose, reporting from the area and waiting for someone to come pull the truck out. John Roberts, the CBS News White House correspondent, spent Tuesday on an overpass over Interstate 10. He had to cut off the satellite feed between transmissions to save gas. Staffers for several networks are sleeping in trucks. Some NBC crew members have started suffering from digestive ailments.'
Of course, some broadcasters don't have to leave their workplace to experience Katrina's wrath. In Biloxi, WLOX continues operations, despite a damaged building and a fallen tower:
'While the station sustained heavy damage during the storm, they continued to broadcast and are continuing to broadcast at this time. They are also simulcasting through several radio stations in the market. Many WLOX employees have lost homes or their homes have suffered heavy damage.'
But what haunts me most is the following passage from a WWLTV blog, that describes a scene straight out of a Stephen King novel:
'Talked to Donny (news photographer Donny Pearce of WVUE) today for a while, he's in Shreveport with his folks, sounds very shaken up, had a horrifying escape from the city apparently, people hanging on his truck begging for help/food/money....'
I'm not asking you to feel sorry for the Fourth Estate. Save that (and your donations) for the downtrodden and the devastated. Just know that the reporters, photojournalists, sat truck operaters and field producers aren't just phoning it in. They're on the ground and in the water, filing heartbreaking reports that will hopefully galvanize a nation into action. Sure, when the flooding subsides they'll go home, but not without a few scars etched into their psyche. Trust me.