A Year Of Katrina: Susan Roesgen Represents CNN’s Commitment To Gulf

By Brian 

Talk about timing.

Susan Roesgen, then an anchor at WGNO in New Orleans, interviewed for a correspondent’s position at CNN one week before Hurricane Katrina hit.

“The night the hurricane hit, I talked my boss at the local station into letting me stay,” she says. The rest of the station evacuated to Baton Rouge. “I borrowed a camera and an SUV from one of the photographers and started shooting video.”

Roesgen officially joined CNN as a correspondent in December. But she first appeared on the network on Aug. 29, 2005, during early morning breaking news coverage anchored by Carol Costello. She described the scene outside the Superdome. The next day, in a phoner with her longtime friend Kyra Phillips, Roesgen described her personal living situation.

“I was not able to get home” last night, she said. “I tried last night to check out my area. Too many downed trees, way too much broken glass. I am now at the television station, where we have been feeding CNN video, as much as we could, right before the storm and just as it was coming over.”

Roesgen described high tensions at the Superdome, a breach in the Seventeenth Street Canal, and a dearth of communication.

In subsequent interviews, she talked with Phillips about the experiences of residents in New Orleans — “what it was like to open your fridge for the first time after a week without power,” for example.

Roesgen provided invaluable “color” for CNN. She reflects: “Here I am — I’m a resident, describing what it’s like here, but I’m also a journalist, so I’m hopefully able to filter it” for the audience, she reflects.

Her first day as a CNN correspondent in the Gulf Coast bureau was Dec. 5. Having a local on the payroll must have come in handy for the cable news net.

“For the first time, the country was seeing a heck of a lot more of the city in a very bad way,” Roesgen says. She was able to put the situation into perspective.

In addition to Roesgen, CNN’s Gulf Coast bureau is staffed by correspondent Sean Callebs, two producers, two photographers, an assignment manager, a bureau chief, and a field engineer.

“It’s a commitment,” she says simply. “CNN has a long-term commitment here.”

Roesgen shares that commitment. “I still live here. I pay taxes here,” she says. “I want this city to work.”

You could say she’s “keeping them honest.”