In Katrina's wake - a class act
The impact of Katrina goes far beyond the Gulf Coast, the commentators keep reminding us. Here's a little different real-life example and the noble response it has generated.
Perhaps it was because the Florida Press Club sent its "hurricane coverage" category (how many other press groups have that as one of their entries?) to the New Orleans Times-Picayune to be judged, along with many of its other key categories such as education writing, state and local government coverage, opinon, etc.
You, of course, know what happened. As the waters rose and the winds blew, the Florida club watched a large chunk of its contest -- and its annual banquet -- get washed away. What to do? Do you hold a banquet with only half your awards? Will anyone come?
Well, here's the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say.
The press club is going ahead with its banquet and an understanding banquet facility has agreed to a more reasonable financial arrangement. In addition, the club has decided to donate the $4,155 in entry fees from the lost entries to a fund to help the Times-Picayune staff recover.
Here's what Stephanie Slater wrote on the club's Web site:
I know many of you will be disappointed, as I am, that these entries were lost and that the awards in these categories will not be presented. But our disappointment is nothing compared to the misery that has descended on the Gulf Coast.
We are glad that we can use the resources of the club that will no longer be needed for awards and banquet meals to help ease the suffering of the journalists who were attempting to help us before disaster struck.But there's more. Check out the responses from the club's members. There are a couple of disgruntled souls -- and, you know, it's understandable that some will be upset, especially if they paid their own money to enter -- but the support for the club's decision is overwhelming.
The most delightful note on the site, however, comes from Mark Schleifstein, the Times-Picayune's environmental writer.
Look it up in the dictionary folks -- that's class all the way around -- from Florida to the Big Easy.
Hey, saw your announcement. The hurricane entries, at least, are safe on my desk on the third floor of the TP. They're not in water, will be recovered, will be judged as soon as I can get them out and look at them. Can't vouch for the others. I was, indeed, planning on judging my batch the weekend of the hurricane, but, well, other things got in the way.
Wife and son and daughter in law have relocated to atlanta. I'm in Baton Rouge with the paper staff. Our house is in the Lakeview area focused on in many of the news accounts, has had 12 feet or more of water in it.
But I'm lucky because I knew it was going to happen and already mentally wrote off the house.
We evacced to the paper in advance of the storm, had to be driven out in our paper deliver trucks afterwards when water rose around the building.
All of our staff have now been accounted for, and are safe.
Thank your membership for their kind gift on behalf of me and all of the Press Club of New Orleans members who were judging your entries.
(Full disclosure: The FPC for some unfathomable reason, has asked me to be the dinner speaker. Probably need a good nap after all the excitement. I was assembling a speech around Sumner Redstone's "Large is no longer in charge" quote when the big one hit. And while I still think it is applicable in so many ways, I'd like your thoughts and ideas, too. What does the aftermath of Katrina -- and how we and the public responded -- tell us about our business? Post a comment here or e-mail me.)