Aug 16, 2010

COVERING KATRINA NEW EXHIBIT OPENS AUG. 27, 2010, AT THE NEWSEUM

New Exhibit Opens Aug. 27, 2010, at the Newseum

WASHINGTON — The Newseum marks the fifth anniversary of the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history with “Covering Katrina,” a new exhibit that chronicles the dramatic tale of the media’s reporting of the killer storm that struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Hurricane Katrina shredded Mississippi’s coast, left 80 percent of New Orleans under water, destroyed billions of dollars in property, displaced 1 million residents and resulted in the deaths of 1,800 people. The exhibit opens Aug. 27.

Hundreds of journalists representing scores of news organizations converged on New Orleans and the Mississippi coast to cover Katrina and its devastating aftermath, but two local newspapers — The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the Sun Herald of Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss. — were literally in the path of the storm. The exhibit tells the story of how these newspapers overcame daunting and dangerous challenges to provide crucial information to their isolated communities. For their efforts, the two newspapers shared journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize for public service. Five years later, journalists continue coverage of Katrina’s aftermath, even as a new calamity — the Gulf Coast oil spill — captures the attention of the nation.

“Covering Katrina” will explore a cross-section of themes related to hurricane coverage: reporting made risky by angry mobs and armed looters; logistical challenges including power outages, disrupted phone service and impassable roads; ethical choices between reporting the story or rescuing victims; and the vital role of news websites in providing essential information to residents. The exhibit also examines the national news media’s role in shining a spotlight on the horrific conditions facing residents and the government’s slow response to the disaster.

“The stories, videos and artifacts in this exhibit provide a powerful look at what it was like for Gulf Coast residents and newspeople to deal with a disaster that shocked the nation,” said Charles L. Overby, chief executive officer of the Newseum.

A Newseum-produced video in the exhibit features dramatic footage of storm coverage along with vivid and often emotional first-person accounts from newspaper editors and television journalists who balanced objective reporting with their own personal frustrations. An interactive kiosk in the gallery contains video excerpts from interviews with journalists who covered the monster storm.

The exhibit will showcase unique objects used by journalists to cover the storm, iconic photographs, broadcast news footage and unforgettable front pages from across the United States and around the world. Some of the never-before-displayed artifacts from the Sun Herald, The Times-Picayune, and the Louisiana State Museum include:

  • A wall map that hung in the offices of the Sun Herald with pins representing locations of the confirmed dead in southern Mississippi.
  • A kayak used by a Times-Picayune photographer to navigate the flooded streets of New Orleans.
  • A plywood rescue sign from the wrecked home of two Sun Herald reporters in Biloxi.
  • A rusty ax used by a Times-Picayune reporter to break into a colleague’s home to rescue pets.
  • A famous anti-looter sign from a New Orleans rug shop that was used as a backdrop for network news reporters.

“Covering Katrina” will be on display at the Newseum through Sept. 5, 2011.

About the Newseum

The Newseum — a 250,000-square-foot museum of news — offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits. Within its seven levels of galleries and theaters, the Newseum offers a unique environment that takes museum-goers behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made.

The Newseum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors (65 and older) and $12.95 for youth (7 to 18). Annual memberships also are available. For additional information, call 888/NEWSEUM (888/639-7386) or visit newseum.org.

 

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NOTE TO EDITORS: Reporters are invited to preview “Covering Katrina” between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 26. To visit the exhibit or to schedule an interview please contact Jonathan Thompson at 202/292-6353 or jothompson@newseum.org.

Hi-res, downloadable images from “Covering Katrina” are available at newseum.org. Click on “Press Info,” then “Press Materials” and “Image Downloads” for the files.

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