With John Berman in the AC360 anchor chair, we decided to catch up on some things "Anderson." On Sunday 60 Minutes will re-air Anderson's report on "Mindfullness" and on Monday (Labor Day) CNN will air the "TV Edition" of The CNN Quiz Show that was originally scheduled to air September 9th.
On Tuesday, Huffington Post posted an interview with Anderson about covering Hurricane Katrina, 10 years later:
Anderson Cooper: Reporting On Katrina Was A 'Privilege'Ten years later, the CNN anchor reflects on covering the tragedy.
On a network that now features the antics of anchor Don Lemon -- whose latest stunt involved holding up a sign with the word “nigger” written on it to spark a discussion about race -- Anderson Cooper, who has anchored his eponymous show “Anderson Cooper 360°” since 2008, seems cast from a different mold.
“I’m pretty old-school; I’m not a very emotional person,” Cooper told The Huffington Post. “I generally try to stay out of the way of what’s happening and be like a fly on the wall. That’s what I’ve always liked most about reporting.”
It’s this “old-school” ideal of the reporter as an impartial, level-headed transmitter of information that made Cooper’s impassioned coverage of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago so remarkable. When he broke journalistic decorum by cutting off then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s tribute to her fellow politicians’ handling of the disaster, it signaled something out of the ordinary -- the magnitude of what had happened was simply beyond the scale of politicians’ usual cant. And Cooper came off as genuine.
“There are times when it’s impossible; you’re a human being as well, and to see some of the things that many of us saw, you can’t help but react to it,” said Cooper, who remained in the Gulf Coast region a month after the hurricane struck.
“If a story doesn’t affect you -- if your eyes aren’t open and your mind isn’t open to what you’re seeing -- then you kind of have no business being there, because you can’t do justice to the people you’re reporting on.”
Cooper’s emotional coverage of the devastation wrought by the storm quickly came to be viewed as a defining moment in his career. New York magazine's Jonathan Van Meter heralded it as a "breakthrough for the future of television news," while The New York Observer dubbed Cooper the "emo-anchor."
Yet the CNN anchor resists such characterizations.
“This is something I’ve been doing for 20, 25 years,” he said. “Maybe more people heard of me after Katrina, but I would never want anyone to think I approached a story like Hurricane Katrina in that way.”
Cooper, who has returned to the Gulf Coast dozens of times since the hurricane struck, said he has kept in touch with and become friends with some of the police officers and other disaster-relief personnel he met when first covering the storm; some he hears from every few years, others he communicates with regularly via text.
For the disaster’s 10th anniversary, he filmed a documentary special for CNN titled “Katrina: The Storm That Never Stopped,” and anchored his program from New Orleans. In a telling manifestation of the current media environment, CNN bumped his special to cover a Donald Trump press conference.
“I find it incredible to think that that much time has gone by,” Cooper said of his return to New Orleans. “It doesn't’ feel like that much time.”
The city has come back in some ways; in other ways, it hasn't. Having returned so frequently, “it’s hard to see radical changes,” Cooper said. “You see small changes here and there that add up.” The city now boasts more restaurants than it had before the storm, but it is a different city altogether: It’s smaller -- by 120,000 people -- and whiter. Much of the Lower Ninth Ward, Cooper noted, has not returned.
“A lot of the people I interviewed 10 years ago ... their lives are still very much impacted by the storm,” he said. “In many cases, their lives have been forever changed.”
People’s natural inclination is to forget, Cooper said. “That’s the way of the world -- it continues to spin forward.” With his CNN special, Cooper said he hoped to remind people of the “human cost” of the storm and retell the stories of some of the victims he encountered on his first trip.
He recalled, for instance, where 91-year-old Ethel Freeman’s dead body sat in a wheelchair outside the convention center for days, covered in little more than a poncho. Photos of Freeman’s corpse -- which her family watched over for four days, but had to abandon when they were ordered onto a bus -- became a searing symbol of the government’s shameful response to the tragedy.
Cooper has said repeatedly in interviews that he feels privileged to bear witness from such close range to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
“It validates everything I’ve always believed about reporting, about the importance of being in a place to really understand what’s going on,” Cooper said. “You can be told by politicians all day long about what’s happening on the ground. In Katrina, what they were saying was happening was not what was actually happening.”
The article reminded us that Anderson came back from vacation to cover the 10th Anniversary live and we never posted part 2 of our look back at his original reporting. Enjoy the Labor Day Weekend and this look back at Anderson Cooper's reporting on Katrina Circa 2005 - 2009 ~
We left off last week with Anderson signing off from Waveland, MS. It was time to head back to NYC and the CNN studio. I managed to find a few extra "goodies" from that first month in the Gulf Coast, so we will start tonight with more from that time, before moving forward.
Anderson wrote a blog post on getting from Meridian to Gulfport, MS. (Please remember to click on images to enlarge.)
From CNN Reports - Katrina State of Emergency.
Anderson Cooper appeared on HBO's Bill Maher program from Biloxi, MS to discuss the failures on the ground.
Once Anderson made his way into New Orleans he interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Wise, a psychiatrist at Tulane University ~
and, also, Hugh Kaufman of the EPA ~
Anderson expressed what the first responders were experiencing ~
And filed this Reporter's Notebook on what he was experiencing ~
(Above five images from CNN Presents - Katrina State of Emergency*)
And summed up his reflections on his time in NOLA with this Reporter's Notebook ~
From CNN Presents - Katrina State of Emergency
During one of his several trips back to NOLA that first year Anderson filed this report on NOLA musicians ~
First Year Anniversary
Anderson opened his broadcast on August 29, 2006 saying, "Thanks for joining us for this special hour of 360. You know, one year ago tonight we were just beginning to grasp the disaster unfolding here in New Orleans. Water was pouring into the city fast, turning houses into death traps. Eventually 80 percent of the city would be flooded. It would get worse, of course, much worse before it was over. As the days ticked by and the death toll rose, it became horribly clear that human error had made the worst natural disaster in the U.S. history even deadlier. It turned it into a catastrophe."
Anderson's Reporter's Notebook from the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. ~
He closed that show saying, "A year ago we met a woman named Miss Connie. She was blind, living alone. She refused to leave the city if her dog, Abu, couldn't come with her. We've been down here dozens of times since the storm and we've always tried to find Miss Connie. We never could. And frankly, we feared the worst for her. That was Abu right there. Tonight, just minutes ago, we heard that Miss Connie is doing fine. She's living in London, Kentucky. And believe it or not, but her dog, Abu, is with her now, after all this time. That is some good news to end with tonight from New Orleans. It's been an honor and a privilege to report this story over the past year. And we will continue to report this story over the course of this next year. We will never forget."
Sometime during the next year Anderson did a follow-up interview with Herbert Gettridge - someone we met in the first days after the storm ~
Second Year Anniversary
Anderson opened the August 29, 2007 edition of AC360 with, "Good evening.
We don't care much for anniversaries on this program, solemn remembrances of stories long since past. But, tonight, we come to you from New Orleans to report on a story which is still very much unfolding. Two years ago tonight, these streets were filling with water. Levees poorly built over decade on shifting sands failed. And, two years ago tonight, what was a natural disaster became very quickly a manmade one. Now, two years later, the recovery of this city, this region, is under way. And it, too, is manmade. Two years ago tonight, governments failed. The people here have not. New Orleans is rising again."
And closed the program saying, "We've met a lot of people ... over the past two years. It remains the one great privilege of the work here. Their patience and warmth with an outsider is welcome. Even more so, their willingness to share anything even when they're got next to nothing to give. I say seemingly because in the past two years I've learned there's so much more to the people in New Orleans and the gulf and what you can see in an hour of television or a week or a month. And as much as I'm grateful for their time and their stories, I'll always consider that realization their true gift to me. That said, some quick thoughts on two years. I mentioned earlier that I'm not really big on anniversaries, especially ones recognized by television. They always seem artificial to me. Maybe I'm just cynical about TV. But whenever I hear a newscast making a big deal about the anniversary of an event, I always assume it must be a slow news cycle. ... So why then on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina are we here in the Gulf Coast? I guess it's because today more people around the country may be willing to take a few moments to remember what happened and what continues to happen here in New Orleans and Mississippi. ... I'm proud that CNN has remained committed to telling this story. A lot of other news organizations seem to have moved on. Katrina fatigue, that's what some people call it. As anyone in New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf Coast will tell you, the only people who have a right to Katrina fatigue are the people still waiting for their insurance company to reimburse them or those waiting for the long-promised Road to Home money, or those still trying to find help rebuilding their homes or their businesses. I know today a lot of reporters will descend on New Orleans, many for the first time since the last anniversary. I'm glad they're here. The city, this region needs all the coverage it can get. But let's not forget that tomorrow the cameras will leave. The television anchors will fly home, myself included, but the people and their problems will remain. It's not enough to only think of them on this yearly anniversary. What they're going through is happening every day, every week, month after month. Let's keep that in mind. Let's keep them in mind, not just today but every day until their lives, their homes are restored. ... We look forward to that day when all of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is rebuilt and renewed. We promise, as we did two years ago, to continue to cover their struggle. Not just on this day but in the difficult days and weeks and months ahead."
We couldn't find any video from the second anniversary program, but we did find an AC 360 'Keeping Them Honest' report on why two years after the storm bodies still still lying in "bureaucratic limbo" from around that time.~
Third Year Anniversary
Anderson opened the August 29th, 2008 edition of AC360 saying, "We are live in New Orleans tonight. We're at the new pumping station where the 17th Street Canal meets Lake Pontchartrain. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers built it to prevent what happened three years ago today, when lake water surged back into the canal system, flooding the city after Hurricane Katrina. People here took note of Katrina's anniversary today, but, for the most part, they are busy getting ready for Hurricane Gustav, with very real doubts about how prepared their city will be, including whether or not these floodgates will actually work." And closed the program with a Reporter's Notebook ~
Fourth Year Anniversary
Anderson opened the August 27th, 2009 edition of AC 360 with, "And good evening from New Orleans. " And further into the program, "Four years ago tonight, the country -- well, four years ago on Saturday night, as this week is the four-year anniversary, the country watched this city as a massive hurricane zeroed in on the Gulf Coast. And this Saturday marks the anniversary of Katrina's landfall. Now, we all know what happened next. We all know how a force of nature collided with human error, with government indifference, and a catastrophe was caused. Well, today, New Orleans continues on its road to recovery. The city is back. The city is alive. The numbers are encouraging. The city has recovered 77 percent of its pre-storm population. For jobs and occupied homes, it's 70 percent. Challenges, of course, however, remain, like public school enrollment. It's about half of what it was before Katrina. Crime, low-income housing. But there are hope, and there is progress. There are hard- working people who every day are making progress and a big difference. People like those here at Musicians' Village, Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps. Seventy-two, as I said, new homes and counting in this one neighborhood. The homes here for musicians who need affordable housing, started -- the idea was started by Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis. They're behind the project. ... A lot has changed in New Orleans in the four years since Hurricane Katrina hit. No doubt about that. Much of it is for the better. More than $20 billion has been invested in the infrastructure, community facilities, housing like this Musicians' Village. And as we mentioned earlier, the population is back to nearly 80 percent of pre-storm levels. Some people are returning, and others are moving here for the first time, like the ultimate Washington insider, James Carville, a Louisiana native, who along with his wife, Mary Matalin, moved outside the beltway, back here to New Orleans. James gave us an up-close tour of his hometown today."~
I hope you've enjoyed this look back on Anderson's reporting on Hurricane Katrina. Today, Sunday, August 29th, marks the Fifth Anniversary. Anderson payed tribute on Thursday night's AC360. If you missed that program, here's a link to the post. ~ Wonz.
Anderson's Foreward from Kathleen Koch's book Rising From Katrina - How My Mississippi Home Lost It All and Found What Mattered
(used with permission of John F. Blair, Publisher )
Anderson's interview with Spike Lee on the 5 year anniversary of Katrina from CNN.com
And Anderson's segments from Spike Lee's HBO Documentary If The Good Lord Is Willing & Da Creek Don't Rise. ~ (I added a little to the video to help give context to Anderson's remarks.)
Blogger's Note: Both Kathleen Koch's book Rising From Katrina - How My Mississippi Home Lost It All and Found What Mattered and CNN Reports Katrina State of Emergency are available for purchase through Amazon.com