For those living on the Gulf Coast of the United States, media coverage of Hurricane Katrina was pretty much what it was for every other storm in recent history. Prior to the storm regular updates were given each time there was a change in the storm’s status which increased as the storm grew in size and strength. In the aftermath, once the storm made landfall, local coverage continued around the clock as usual.
Many people do not evacuate during hurricane season. Because they are used to what the storms bring, they tape or board up windows, elevate furniture and valuable belongings, gather water, batteries and other supplies, and ride out the storms as they have done for decades fully expecting loss of electricity and maybe some minor flooding.
For those who chose to ride out the storm, media coverage of Hurricane Katrina was accessible via battery powered radios and televisions. After the storm passed, people with these devices were at an advantage over even members of their local fire and police departments who were unable to communicate because with the city-wide loss of electricity many were without radios.
In the city of New Orleans, where flood protection failed causing eighty percent of the city to be under water, coverage was twenty four hours because the local media had planned ahead. Television anchors from New Orleans had relocated to Baton Rouge and Florida to continue broadcasting by remote making it possible for news to continue to be relayed from the area.
In instances where they were unable to get on-camera reports they received updates “from the field” via text message and working land-line telephones as well as from persons able to call in from mobile or satellite phones. These remote broadcasts continued for several days after the storm and stretched into weeks.
Print media such as the Times Picayune newspaper was limited to posting updates to its nola.com website. Images and comments were also posted by non-journalists who had access to devastated areas and the means to upload the information online.
Members of the national media agencies unfamiliar with where they were sometimes gave erroneous reports about what was happening and where it was taking place. These agencies are largely responsible for persons outside the damaged areas believing there was still water on the ground weeks, months and even years after it had all been pumped out and people were able to return to their homes.
As of late July of 2010, just under a month shy of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, coverage is reduced to occasional updates on the continuing recovery efforts. Much of that coverage on the national scale is due to visits from the president and activities of celebrities.