- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Relying on satellite phones, blogs and the hospitality of colleagues, press outlets whose offices and production systems were devastated by Hurricane Katrina improvised to report the storm’s awesome damage.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, unable to print physical copies of the newspaper yesterday, instead posted full-color scans of news pages on its Web site. “CATASTROPHIC,” read the Page 1 headline.

A technical mishap Monday night had thwarted the paper’s plans to have another newspaper, the Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., print copies of the Times-Picayune.

Yesterday morning, a note posted on the Times-Picayune’s Web site drove home the personal danger of staying behind to report the story: The paper said it was evacuating its New Orleans building.

“Water continues to rise around our building, as it is throughout the region,” the posting said. “We want to evacuate our employees and families while we are still able to safely leave our building.”

It was not clear later yesterday how, or whether, the paper would print today’s editions, and its editors could not be reached by phone. The Advocate said Times-Picayune staffers might use desks at an Advocate emergency site nearby in Baton Rouge.

The Sun Herald of Gulfport, Miss. — one of the places most brutally pounded by Katrina — relied on a team of editors and page designers in Columbus, Ga., to print about 20,000 copies of its edition yesterday.

Lee Ann Schlatter, a spokeswoman for Knight Ridder, the publishing company that owns both the Gulfport and Columbus papers, said the company was sending in dozens of additional journalists from other papers as well as supplies.

“We’re trying to get food and water in there,” she said. “It’s real basic survival needs to make it possible for these people to do the job.”

With most regular telephones and cell phones rendered useless after the storm, Miss Schlatter said, the company was sending in satellite phones — the same piece of equipment used by many reporters covering the war in Iraq.

In New Orleans, talk radio station WWL-AM became something of a crisis line, with callers reporting the locations of people who needed to be rescued from attics and rooftops.

By yesterday afternoon, the Associated Press still did not know the condition of its bureau, on the 25th floor of a building near the Superdome in New Orleans.

While three of its reporters stayed in New Orleans to cover the devastation, other staffers set up an improvised bureau at the Baton Rouge newspaper.

Most of the bureau had been working since Saturday at the offices of the Hammond Daily Star, a newspaper about 55 miles away from New Orleans, until the furious storm hit Monday.

“The phones went out, and then after the power failed a few hours later, water started coming through the roof,” said Charlotte Porter, the AP’s chief of bureau for Louisiana.

The news cooperative had 30 staffers — text, audio, video and photo — covering the disaster, AP spokesman Jack Stokes said.

Television stations in the storm’s path also had to scramble to make alternate plans.

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