DAVID BIANCULLI

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Gustav Storms Gulf Coast, TV News Networks Storm Storm
September 2, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 

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Brian Williams, returning to the site of his impressive Katrina reporting from three years ago, climbed atop one of the precarious levees separating New Orleans from another devastating flood. Determined and defiant, he was like Jack Nicholson at the end of A Few Good Men. You want him on that wall. You NEED him on that wall...

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Even though Monday was the scheduled first day of the Republican National Convention, and TV news organizations are very cognizant of charges of unfair and unbalanced coverage, moving to the site of Hurricane Gustav was the right call. Williams, Katie Couric at CBS, Charles Gibson at ABC -- all of them headed to Louisiana instead of St. Paul, and all did very well.

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Anderson Cooper of CNN -- who, like Williams at NBC, gained notice for his strong reporting during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- was there again, and perspective and experience was one of the best things TV had to offer yesterday. One of the worst things, as always: The idiotic insistence upon throwing reporters into the center of the storm, bending like human palm trees. Ann Curry, on NBC, was one of the ridiculous rag dolls on display this time.

What I'll never understand is why the networks don't simply anchor remote-controlled cameras at key location, and use time-lapse photography and simple editing to show rising storm surges and wind-force levels as they change from hour to hour -- and from hurricane to hurricane.

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The one truly intelligent use of TV technology on view this time was John King's computer maps over at CNN, used to stunning effect. Not only did he use his satellite-eye views to show where the places from which CNN reporters had been reporting, but just seeing the Mississippi River and the various levees from a clear series of satellite photos made it all seem very understandable. And very scary.

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Away from the storm, the Republicans used the convention site to raise money for victims, in a plea by Cindy McCain and Laura Bush. But there were storms of a sort to weather in St. Paul as well, as news surfaced about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her pregnant unmarried daughter.

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And, finally, there was other storm news, and it wasn't good -- just as Hurricane Gustav was losing strength after making landfall, the Atlantic Ocean was playing host to Hurricane Hanna, rapidly moving towards Florida, with other storms in its wake.

Looks to be a busy TV news month, and not just for politics.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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