WNYW News Director Reflects on Hurricane Coverage: ‘You just saw the resourcefulness and the capabilities of some of these people’

By Merrill Knox 

For WNYW-WWOR in New York City, Hurricane Sandy coverage has been a “total team effort.”

“It’s been all hands on deck,” vice president and news director Dianne Doctor told TVSpy Thursday morning. “I’m really proud of our people and I think we’ve done a great job.”

Staffers at the Fox duopoly (like reporter Kerry Drew, pictured) have been working in 12 hour shifts since Sunday, the day before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. Crews who have been out in the field for four days are now facing a new challenge: gas lines in the Tri-state area that stretch for miles, snarling traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. Doctor said the station has contracted out private suppliers of fuel to keep their satellite trucks running.

“We’re having difficulty as well but we’re pretty resourceful. Our crews know their areas pretty well. They’ve been able to keep gas supplies coming,” Doctor said. “But it is a challenge.”

WNYW recently signed a chopper-sharing agreement with WCBS, the CBS O&O. In a situation where the aerial pictures are crucial to the story — both to illustrate the devastation and to get to areas that the crews on the ground can’t access — the partnership has been especially important, Doctor said.

“It’s working great. The two assignment desks are working together,” she said. “Everybody is really cooperative and we’ve been able to maximize the use of the helicopter.”

Doctor said the use of Internet-based technology helped the station’s mobility during the storm. It was especially useful in Lower Manhattan, where power went out Monday evening and has not returned since, Doctor said. The station streamed images of the pitch-dark city from a moving car.

“It was a live look at a blacked-out city,” Doctor said. “Watching it you really understood what was going on.”

Doctor has been particularly proud of her reporters in the field (like Kerry Drew, pictured), noting that John Huddy’s reporting from Long Island and Joel Waldman’s from Howard Beach have stood out. She said a memorable moment was hearing Dan Bowen, reporting live from Seaside, recount one of his meals, which were stockpiled for field crews ahead of time, during the storm.

“He was talking about how without power he was heating up his soup on the engine of his truck, and he said it was the best food that he had had,” Doctor said. “You just saw the resourcefulness and the capabilities of some of these people.”

All told, WNYW-WWOR have produced more than 100 hours of Sandy coverage over the past four days.

“It’s too soon for me to step back and assess [what’s next],” she said. “I think we’re still in that situation where we’re moving forward and covering it as it unfolds.”