Thursday, January 31

After Andrew, Part II

I've written here before about Hurricane Andrew. Not much more can be said. But pictures are worth a thousand words, and I just came across these on YouTube.

This video does need some setup, though. This is WCIX, Channel 6, the CBS O-and-O. These days it's still CBS-owned, but now it's WFOR on Channel 4.

Our tower toppled during the storm, so we were up only on a low-power "translator." The good news is that most cable companies could pick up the low-power station. The bad news is that no one had cable. Hell, no one had electricity! As far as it goes, this was something of an exercise in futility: the hardest-hit people, the folks who needed us most, had no way to watch our news!

The anchor team is Barbara Sloan and the inimitable John Hambrick. I'll be honest: Hambrick was "high maintenance." I drank a gallon (see previous posts) with John many times. But when the chips were down not many anchors could deliver like John Hambrick. Here he is, at his best.

This newscast is probably from August 25th, 1992 (the day after) or the 26th (two days after).

One thing I'm proudest of is that I encouraged "first person" reporting. I had our reporters tell their storm stories. Dave Game is on this segment. Dave was named "Best Reporter in Florida" by the AP for work like this. His description of what happened to his wife and his home during Andrew is story-telling at its best: truth telling. By the way, if he looks a little disheveled, it's not just because he'd been out traipsing around in the "war zone." It was 95 degrees in the newsroom. You see, our emergency generator didn't supply full power to the entire station--only selected essential areas. The newsroom got electrical outlets--but no air conditioning, and at this point the hurricane shutters were still on. Somewhere in there I took a crowbar and broke out some windows to get fresh air. Imagine our staff of about 75, plus reporters and photographers and editors from all around the country, with no showers, and dragging water from the lagoon out back to flush the toilets. Whew!

Another thing I'm proud of is that we quickly moved past the "Ain't That A Shame" stories to more meaningful information. Eventually we dedicated a whole program (Neighbors Helping Neighbors) to matching people who had with people who needed. Oh, we still did the obligatory "The Perez Family is homeless" stories, but we tried to put meaningful information on the air. That program and that effort went on for months.

Sorry: this "short" introduction really rambled. But the video tells the tale.

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