As New York approaches the three-week mark of Hurricane
Sandy leaving much of the nation's largest DMA in despair, the story and its
many developments continue to be a lead one in local TV news here.
Reports of floods, fires and frustratingly long power outages
have given way to stories of recovery, of rip-off artists seeking to benefit
from the aggrieved, and about how New York is prepared for the next Sandy-sort
"This story is almost as big as the first week,"
says David Friend, senior VP of news at CBS Television Stations. "Wherever
you go, you still uncover incredible stories of people suffering terribly, or
people's heroic relief efforts, and the politicians we are holding accountable.
The storm was so vast and impacted so many people."
The cable news networks have the luxury of sticking with the
massive story around the clock. Some 70% of the content on Long Island's News
12 the week of Nov. 12-16 was Sandy-related, say its managers -- it dropped
sports reports for two full weeks -- and as much as 80-90% on its Cablevision
counterpart in New Jersey. NY 1 News devotes the whole of its nightly 8 p.m.
newscast to Sandy. "The show is entirely Sandy-related issues," says
Steve Paulus, Time Warner Cable senior VP of news and local programming and NY1
News chief. "For as long as it takes, we are totally devoted to it."
The Sandy stories will continue for months as people rebuild
their homes and devastated beachfront communities reestablish themselves as
destinations in advance of the warm weather next year. Some 250,000 New Jersey
residents registered for assistance from FEMA, says Randal Stanley, general
manager and news director at News 12 New Jersey.
"I'm sure each one of them has a story," says
Stanley. "That's a lot of stories."
Perhaps most vexing is how the New York market can prevent
widespread wreckage from the next superstorm -- an angle-savvy news outlet will
stay on for months and perhaps years. "There are a lot of questions to be
asked about recovery and housing and when the lights get turned on again,"
says Susan Sullivan, vice president of news at WNBC, "along with why it happened
and how to stop it happening again."
If there's any benefit from such deep and wide despair, it's
that thousands of news gatherers picked up some real crisis experience in the
past few weeks, and news stations learned to patch together newscasts and
updates amidst severe logistical odds.
Some saw just how much people in the community rely on them.
The management at News 12 on Long Island was surprised to see 15-20 tired,
dirty and frustrated people, in the aftermath of the storm, banging on the
facility door in Woodbury. "We need an advocate!" Pat Dolan, News 12
Networks president and news director at News 12 Long Island, said they told him.
"I can't remember anything like that happening
before," notes Dolan.
A panel of New York news veterans was asked to put Sandy in
historical perspective as a news story. The managers mentioned various
blizzards and the TWA plane crash that killed 230 in 1996, but said Sandy
easily beats them all in terms of a long-lasting, and far-reaching, news story.
Sept. 11 may be the biggest story any of them cover in their careers, but Sandy
may end up affecting more people.
"Certainly not to diminish 9/11, but the coverage of
this is just so widespread," says Friend of CBS. "Wherever you go,
there's another victim, another hero, another story. I haven't experienced
anything like it."
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