The force of Hurricane Katrina will be felt once again on television, with a rush of newscasts and specials about the Gulf Coast disaster that claimed more than 1,300 lives a year ago.
In this case, the media penchant for anniversary reporting is more than justified.
“It’s not just the anniversary of the storm we’re marking,” said NBC News President Steve Capus.
“We went there to cover a storm and came away with something completely different, such remarkable stories about everything from American resilience and compassion to race relations, governmental failures, governmental success, pure ugly politics, all of it,” he said.
(MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)
With the deep wounds that were opened, people want to see “what’s happened in the healing process, where we are, the missed opportunities, how much more do we have to go,” Capus said.
Fox News Channel anchor Shepard Smith agrees.
“For me, this gives us an excuse to spend company money on what I think is important,” Smith said from New York this week, before traveling to Louisiana and Mississippi.
Smith said he hoped to find stories of “triumph over tragedy” and to highlight areas where efforts to rebuild and regroup, especially in New Orleans, might be falling short.
Newscasters don’t have a corner on the story. Filmmaker Spike Lee’s four-hour HBO documentary, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” will air again in its entirety Tuesday, Aug. 29, the date that Katrina made landfall.
The film focuses on New Orleans and what Lee condemns as the lack of a comprehensive rebuilding plan.
The History Channel will look at National Guard heroism in the hurricane’s aftermath with “Katrina: Send in the Guard,” debuting Tuesday.
But the comprehensive attention is from broadcast and cable news operations.
News channels take the leadNBC, which won a Peabody Award for its reporting, will air the hourlong special “Katrina: The Long Road Back” on Monday. It includes “In His Own Words, Brian Williams on Hurricane Katrina,” an expanded version of the NBC anchorman’s film that originally aired on Sundance Channel.
Williams will anchor “NBC Nightly News” from the region Monday and Tuesday. NBC, which opened a Gulf Coast bureau in New Orleans shortly after the hurricane, will offer coverage on “Today,” “Weekend Today” and “Meet the Press,” with an interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
Other NBC News platforms, including CNBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, will report as well.
“America’s Challenge: Rebuilding the Gulf” is Fox News Channel’s blanket title for coverage, which began Saturday with live reports from New Orleans by Smith, who gained notice for his passionate reporting from the scene last year.
Smith will be in Mississippi beginning Wednesday. Several Fox News correspondents and Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record” will be in the region.
CNN, also a Peabody winner for its Katrina coverage, is drawing on its Gulf Coast bureau in New Orleans on shows including “The Situation Room” and is sending anchors and correspondents to the region for “Anderson Cooper 360” and “American Morning” with Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien.
On Tuesday, “Larry King Live” will feature Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and musician Aaron Neville.
ABC and CBS will use a variety of programs and resources to cover the anniversary.
ABC News’ “Katrina: Where Things Stand” represents what the network is calling a division-wide series including a “report card” on local, state and federal recovery efforts and a poll on national and regional confidence in the capability of government.
On Monday, “Good Morning America,” “World News with Charles Gibson,” and “Nightline” will air from the Gulf Coast, with ABC anchors and correspondents returning to see people and areas hit by the hurricane’s power.
CBS’ “The Early Show” and “CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer” will offer Katrina reports, while “The Early Show” will be anchored from New Orleans on Monday and Tuesday by Harry Smith, who has visited the region repeatedly.