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Posts Tagged ‘2008 Iowa floods’

Looking back over the past year or so, in many ways it was the most frustrating, disappointing period of my career. I normally would avoid looking back on it at all. I am a positive person and have been looking forward to a new job that has taken me out of the newspaper business.

But I sort of had to look back, mostly in surprise, when I learned in January that Editor & Publisher magazine, which boasts that it is “America’s oldest journal covering the newspaper industry,” was naming me Editor of the Year. The magazine announcing the honor arrives in newspaper offices this week, the week after I left the industry.

A year before I received the news, I was preparing to do two of the most difficult things of my career: (more…)

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Update: Maya Esther is in the United States. Read the update.

A journalist gets an unusual perspective on disaster stories.

Chances are you remember the Oklahoma City bombing from the horrific television images of the demolished building or the heart-rending photograph of a firefighter carrying a dead baby from the building. I remember the bombing from the grit in the air I could feel and taste covering the aftermath in downtown Oklahoma City.

You may have forgotten about the catastrophic mudslides that hit Venezuela in 1999. I will never forget walking with a woman on a devastated mountainside as she pointed at homes where she and relatives once lived. “Es mi casa,” she said, gesturing to some rubble, part of it recognizable as the top of a wall, the rest of her home swept away or buried in mud hardened like concrete. Another woman recalled that horrible night, gesturing downward with her arm, talking about the terror that came rushing down the mountainside, repeating, “cadave” — corpses sliding down in a torrent of mud.

My role as editor of The Gazette during the 2008 flood has received plenty of attention, so I won’t belabor it here. And I recently recalled my role covering the 9/11 attack from a distance. In a career that started in the 1970s, I have covered dozens of tornadoes, floods and other disasters as a reporter and editor. The stories are emotional. You can’t help but feel the human impact, sharing joy and heartbreak with people you interview. But you develop a sort of professional shell that helps you function and keeps you from feeling too deeply.

This week I learned a bit of what it’s like to be one of those people I used to cover, waiting anxiously to learn whether a loved one had survived, trying to bring her to safety. (more…)

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This decade is ending with much less fanfare than the past one, which was the turn of both a century and a millennium.

This decade passed without really getting a name — the Oughts didn’t quite stick, like I guess they did a century earlier (they so didn’t stick that I don’t even know or care whether Oughts or Aughts would be the preferred spelling).

If you don’t have much patience for self-indulgent reflections, this might be a good time to go read something else, because I’m going to look back on the past decade of my career. (more…)

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Here is a draft of a story I wrote for this Sunday’s Gazette, based on some reporting I did when I was in Biloxi last month and some follow-up reporting by telephone after returning to Cedar Rapids. For more on the recovery on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, check the coverage in the Sun Herald.

Biloxi, Miss. – Billboards along Interstate 10 tell the mixed story of a resort town fighting its way back. Most signs invite visitors to the casino shows of yesteryear’s stars (Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, Engelbert Humperdinck). But one billboard targets local residents, hundreds of whom still live in FEMA trailers. The sign informs the locals that new flood insurance maps are ready.

The communities of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast have spent nearly four years learning how difficult, demanding and slow disaster recovery can be. (more…)

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I hope you’ll pardon some boasting as I note that The Gazette today won the 2008 Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Our coverage of the floods of 2008 won the deadline reporting award for newspapers under 100,000 circulation.

This continues a terrific run of recognition for our outstanding staff, which has previously won awards for our flood coverage from the Inland Press Association, National Press Photographers Association, Iowa Newspaper Association and Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors (and maybe something that I forgot).

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