For those who have wondered how news operations shift gears and plan coverage for disasters like the one in Haiti, National Public Radio’s Ombudsman Alicia Shepard has posted a detailed blow-by-blow of how NPR began its coverage of the Haiti earthquake, as well as its attempts to get reporters and producers on the ground in Port Au Prince.
One day afer the earthquake, reporter Carrie Kahn was the first to make it to Haiti with just a satellite phone, having gotten a seat on a medical relief charter and leaving her producer in Ft. Lauderdale. By Wednesday, she was able to do a report for All Things Considered.
Other NPR reporters and producers made it soon after, with Mexico City correspondent Jason Beuabien flying into the Dominican Republican and other staff catching charter and relief flights into Haiti. Two NPR staff still had not made it to Haiti by Friday because a near-miss in their plane resulted in a landing in the Turks and Caicos.
Shepard quotes NPR’S deputy managing editor Stu Seidel that the effort required preparing staff for the possibility that “support services will be dreadful” and that staff would need to bring their own food and sleeping bags.
“This is a terrible, terrible story,” said Seidel. “Even though all of us have a lot of experience, we are still making this up as we go along. What’s in my head right now is who will be in the next group that I send in this weekend. This story is going to take a toll on the people we send there if we have them reporting constantly in a relentless way.”
Reading the blog on how NPR responded, it raises an interesting counterpoint to a question NPR’s own Scott Simon asked on Weekend Edition Saturday in his conversation with Daniel Schorr. After Schorr praised the network coverage, Simon raised a question about whether it was responsible for networks to “clot up” the “very slender pipeline” into Haiti so that “chartered planes with celebrity anchors” could get into the country. Schorr seemed to be surprised by the question, and largely ignored it.
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