Aug 29 2008

Katrina Special: Colette Pichon Battle on Katrina three years later, Leigh Dingerson on New Orleans schools, Derrick Evans on the FEMA trailer tour


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This week on CounterSpin: All eyes have been focused on Denver and the Democratic National Convention. But while the political calendar suggests the story of the day is the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee, it’s hard to forget that the festivities coincide with the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This week on CounterSpin we’ll take a special look at where things stand in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

The federal government’s response to the Katrina catastrophe was a remarkable political and media moment. That the Bush administration could manage to so thoroughly mishandle the situation was maybe not a tremendous surprise. But to many TV viewers’ eyes, Katrina was a turning point, a moment when the national media finally decided enough was enough, and the soothing spin from government spokespersons could be challenged head on. Andersen Cooper on CNN, NBC‘s Brian Williams and Tim Russert—even Fox News personalities like Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera seemed genuinely outraged by what they were witnessing firsthand. The abrupt change in tone was noted by the rest of the media; “The Rebellion of the Talking Heads” was the headline at Slate; “Katrina Rekindles Adversarial Media” was USA Today‘s summary.

And many in the press vowed this would be the new normal. Katrina had exposed poverty and racism that media had mostly ignored, but would, from now on, work to understand and document. The Katrina story, they told us, would be one they wouldn’t soon forget. But as FAIR’s magazine Extra! pointed out months later, the corporate media’s fascination with poverty post-Katrina, save for a few exceptions, lasted all of one month.

So what are the still untold stories of Katrina recovery? We’ll put that question to Colette Pichon Battle, a community attorney and president of the board of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc. And while Katrina had faded from the national spotlight, one story in New Orleans has been labeled a bright spot—the transformation of the city’s public school system. Does the sunny view provided by the media match reality? We’ll talk to Leigh Dingerson of the Center for Community Change. And finally—the housing of Katrina survivors in FEMA trailers has managed to stay in the news, mostly as a reminder of the disastrous reconstruction and housing policy in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. While reporters can obviously come to New Orleans and see the trailers for themselves, local activists had a better idea: take the trailers on the road, sharing the story of Katrina survival from coast to coast. We’ll speak to activist Derrick Evans about those efforts. All that on this special edition of CounterSpin.


Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc.

Center for Community Change

KatrinaRitaVille Express