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Member stations teamed up to maintain service through Hurricane Ida

WWNO reporter Tegan Wendland reporting in LaPlace, Louisiana (Shalina Chatlani, WWNO)
Shalina Chatlani at WWNO
WWNO reporter Tegan Wendland reporting in LaPlace, Louisiana (Shalina Chatlani, WWNO)

Hurricane Ida left NPR Member stations in its path with power outages, dwindling fuel supplies, and staff members scrambling to find safe places to stay. We heard from stations as they worked to keep listeners safe and informed.

The hardest hit station was WWNO in New Orleans. Some WWNO staff had to evacuate to work from remote locations, while others reported from New Orleans despite having no power, phone, A/C, lights, or studio.

WWNO's General Manager Paul Maassen shared with NPR:

"Everyone is safe. Staff is doing an amazing job under tough circumstances."

The station lost power in its studio after a backup generator failed, but the staff were able to stream the audio from a local TV station and then rig up a simulcast of NPR Member station WRKF in Baton Rouge.

"Robert Carroll, our engineer, deserves a medal," Maassen said.

During the storm and its aftermath, reporters shared local and national stories across platforms, reaching audiences through national NPR shows, Twitter Spaces, the NPR One app, and more. WWNO's work was critical to providing emergency, life-saving information to the people of New Orleans and beyond. Stories from WWNO reporters appeared on NPR's website and on our air.

The Gulf States Newsroom, established in 2020, allowed NPR Member station staff to not only report throughout the storm, but to innovate on new platforms. Gulf States Newsroom Managing Editor Priska Neely said:

"This week, the Gulf States Newsroom crew went all hands on deck to assist

WWNO/WRKF with coverage of Hurricane Ida and really showcased the power of doing more together ... This is a marathon, not a sprint, so we'll continue to help tell these stories in the coming weeks and work on future coverage plans and preparedness."

NPR's Member Partnership team remained in close contact with stations throughout the hurricane, offering assistance. They reported that in addition to WWNO, other Louisiana stations continued their vital public service: KRVS in Lafayette broadcast its morning program, Bonjour Louisiane,KRVS, Red River Radio in Shreveport, KEDM in Monroe, and Mississippi Public Broadcastingall live-streamed Morning Edition.

Supporting the public radio community through the storm and its after-effects continues to be a joint effort. The public radio organization Greater Public activated its Colleagues Helping Colleagues fund to collect donations to support WWNO staff in their personal recoveries from the storm. Colleagues from other stations in the region worked to help secure reliable housing and other logistical support for the WWNO team.

As the lights went off, phones died, and studios were rendered unusable, reporters across Louisiana never faltered in their mission. They went out in their communities, asked questions, and told the stories that needed to be heard.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anna Sirianni