How Katrina Made TV Journos ‘More Emotive and Less Dispassionate’

By Chris Ariens 

The AP’s David Bauder talks with Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on his experience covering the aftermath of hurricane Katrina as the 5th anniversary of the storm approaches.

In the days following Katrina, Smith walked among people suffering from a lack of food, water and medical care, while officials assured journalists that help was either there or on the way. His eyes, ears and nose told him differently. He’d never been spun by officials quite to that extent.

“The human instinct is to turn up the volume,” he said. The lasting affect of the story is to make Smith more skeptical of authority figures in times of crisis.

Less lasting is the idea, popular post-Katrina, that the experience would make television journalists more emotive and less dispassionate when out on stories.

“The emotions, the activism that sort of sprung was natural and for the time, reflectively, I think it was probably right,” he said. “But I don’t think it belongs in our daily reporting lives. Those were extraordinary times and they brought about extraordinary emotions. I’m careful to control my emotions. It wasn’t possible at that time.”

• Shepard Smith TVNewser coverage from Sept., 2005:

Shep Smith, Alone On The Underpass, Showing Viewers A Nightmare

New Orleans, Four Weeks Later: “There’s Nothing,” Shep Smith Says

“The City Died Here With Him,” Shep Smith Says