2005: Broadcasters Air Heartbreaking, Chilling Images From The Gulf Coast

By Brian 

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was the biggest news story of 2005, and some see it as a defining moment for television. Here’s why:

> Sept. 16: Media coverage of Katrina “brought the country together”

> Sept. 15: NBC and CNN open bureaus in New Orleans

> Sept. 14: “This story has touched me more than any other. I watched fellow Americans dying, in my country, for lack of food and water,” Williams says

> Sept. 12: Variety says Katrina is a “turning point for TV’s new generation of reporters”

> Sept. 11: “This may be a Cronkite moment”

> Sept. 10: CNN’s Cooper “seems to have claimed first position on the misery and suffering and danger”

> Sept. 9: CNN obtains restraining order to prevent FEMA from excluding the media from the body recovery process

> Sept. 9: Cooper: “We want the world to know what happened here and the people of New Orleans want the world to know what has happened”

> Sept. 9: Reporters face restrictions in New Orleans

> Sept. 9: 70 percent of Americans are following the aftermath, according to a Pew study, and most give the press good marks

> Sept. 9: “Perhaps the finest coverage” in CNN’s history

> Sept. 7: Diane Sawyer volunteers with the Red Cross

> Sept. 7: “I don’t want to home,” Cooper says

> Sept. 6: FNCers do “housing placement work” for survivors

> Sept. 6: Olbermann tears apart the government’s credibility in a scathing Countdown commentary

> Sept. 5: Reporters face health hazards; two NBC employees have dysentery

> Sept. 5: Geraldo rescues 71-year-old woman and her dog

> Sept. 5: Howard Kurtz says “journalism seems to have recovered its reason for being”

> Sept. 4: Journalists become “advocates for the voiceless”

> Sept. 3: Katrina is a “career-maker” for Williams

> Sept. 3: “The networks were mostly AWOL just five days into the biggest natural disaster in American history”

> Sept. 2: Geraldo and Shep break down on Saturday night

> Sept. 2: CNN examines “what was said” by the federal government “versus what was happening;” Journalists do their jobs!

> Sept. 2: All three evening newscasts expand to an hour

> Sept. 2: Harrigan says “I’ve never seen anything like this in the United States”

> Sept. 2: Survivors use Roberts’ satellite phone to call loved ones

> Sept. 2: Joe Scarborough, in Biloxi, calls the lack of hurricane relief a national disgrace

> Sept. 1: Anderson Cooper berates Mary Landrieu on CNN. “For the last four days, I’ve been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi,” he says

> Sept. 1: Dan Bartlett makes a DVD of the evening newscasts so President Bush can comprehend the horror along the Gulf Coast [Reported on Sept. 12]
> Sept. 1: “As the week wore on, TV images were more and more chilling, even numbing, in their intensity”

> Sept. 1: NBC Nightly News expands to an hour. ABC and NBC run specials in primetime

> Sept. 1: Objectivity goes out the window. The news media is angry, and rightly so

> Sept. 1: CNN rebrands their coverage “State of Emergency.” FNC calls it “America’s Challenge”

> Sept. 1: CNN’s Chris Lawrence is in shock. “People need to see this…people are dying at the convention center”

> Sept. 1: “People are dying, and will continue to die, on that freeway, right there,” Shep Smith reports. “We know, because we’ve seen it…In the United States of America, right now, there is an elderly man dead on the side of the freeway and authorities pass by him and he remains there”

> Sept. 1: CNN sends international correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jeff Koinange, Karl Penhaul, and Nic Robertson to the Gulf Coast

> Sept. 1: NBC sends private security personnel to protect its crews; Later, all the networks do it

> Sept. 1: Meserve says “apart from 9/11 this is one of the most significant events that has ever hit this country”

> Aug. 31: CNN establishes “Victims & Relief” desk

> Aug. 31: The broadcast networks wake up. Every network airs a special report in primetime

> Aug. 31: Shep Smith says “there are no pictures to tell the vast majority of this story”

> Aug. 31: Nets send convoys of supplies to personnel along the coast; more on Thursday

> Aug. 31: Robin Roberts, at home in Mississippi, cries on GMA

> Aug. 30: The broadcast nets grossly underreport the devastation along the Gulf Coast. The lack of coverage is is embarrassing and inexcusable

> Aug. 30: Aaron Brown recaps the situation: “New Orleans is no longer safe to live in. It is that simple, and that stark”

> Aug. 30: Williams resumes blogging. He says “we may never be able to express the full magnitude of the suffering or loss”

> Aug. 30: FNC’s Jeff Goldblatt reports “palpable concern” in NOLA; “There are the hallmarks here of being in a war”

> Aug. 30: CNN’s Jeanne Meserve breaks into tears while describing the worsening situation in New Orleans. She describes people crying for help outside of the reach of rescue boats and bodies floating in the water

> Aug. 30: CNN breaks t
he news of a New Orleans levee break

> Aug. 30: FNC promotes “Hurricane Harrigan”

> Aug. 29: MSNBC.com streams 5.8 million video streams. CNN.com traffic triples

> Aug. 29: Shep Smith reports that “New Orleans has been spared the catastrophic devastation that many predicted;” Several media outlets offer conflicting reports about the levees

> Aug. 29: Gulfport looks like “hell on earth,” CNN’s Gary Tuchman reports; Later, debris damages Hurricane One

> Aug. 29: As the Superdome roof begins to leak, Williams transmits a photo via cell phone

> Aug. 29: Shep Smith is in the French Quarter. Anderson Cooper is in Baton Rouge. Brian Williams is in the Superdome

> Aug. 28: The anchors sound grim before Katrina comes ashore. “It’s hushed tones and somber moods all around,” an e-mailer says

Large photos courtesy CNN