If there is a media outlet that deserves a lot of respect for their coverage of Katrina and its aftermath, it is the Times-Picayune. During last weekend TCA tour one of their columnist had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts with Anderson Cooper. Those of you that have ventured within the NOLA.com community boards knows how divided they are towards him. Some love him, some want to smack him. But at least he still bringing the show down to New Orleans... and God knows how they need it!
Live! From New Orleans! It's Anderson Cooper (again)
July 16, 2007 13:15PM
By Dave Walker
HOLLYWOOD -- The Television Critics Association summer TV Tour Blog of Me pauses briefly today for breaking news.
The theme so far has been self-betterment via tips from TV stars rendered throughout this three-week mash-up of promotional cocktail jibber-jabber leavened by formal ballroom interview sessions and endless hours of lonely hotel-room laptop-tapping, but Anderson Cooper is live from New Orleans again tonight on CNN, another in about 20 visits he's made since his five-week Hurricane Katrina residency.
Sunday, Cooper was here in Hollywood to talk about an upcoming two-part documentary he's hosting titled "Planet in Peril" (airing at 8 p.m. October 23 and 24) but I cornered him after the session to talk about the peril ever-present in my little corner of the planet.
Tonight, he's there in Hollywood South, as "Anderson Cooper 360" originates from a New Orleans-area location undetermined at the time of this posting. Air time is 9 p.m.
I wanted to talk to Cooper because before I left home I'd seen a cable rebroadcast of a recent local hospitality-industry summit at which a participant expressed a desire to smack him, presumably out of frustration over the national media's overall emphasis on recovery woes in lieu of unrelenting "Live with Regis and Kelly"-style positivity over the tourist sectors of the city in which the cash registers, at least, have been restored.
Which is maybe understandable, I suppose, given that livelihoods and stock portfolios are at stake, but c'mon. Actual lives are at stake, too, and with K+2 swiftly approaching, national correspondents ignore the very real civic peril at the peril of the whole truth.
So I asked Cooper what kind of feedback he gets from us.
"I get (feedback from) e-mails every day, from phone calls and especially from going there talking to people on the street," he said. "It's a mix. A lot of it is story ideas, particular ideas they want (reported). It's people asking me to come down, do more stories, do more reporting on it. I've gotten some criticism for doing some stories on the crime. I totally understand why people would not want those stories told.
"The criticism I've heard is largely from a few business owners in the French Quarter (that) doing crime stories hurts the image of New Orleans. I totally get it. Frankly, it's a debate I have in my own head, my own heart, all the time. You try to do it in a way that provides balance, that shows where things are. You don't want to give the impression that (mayhem) is the experience you'll have if you come to New Orleans, because I certainly don't think that's the case.
"At the same time, I think you've got to show all sides of what's happening, and I think it can be good and it can be bad, and I understand why people don't want those stories shown.
"To me the bottom-line thing is to keep going and to keep telling the story. You know, as most people know, there's not a lot of (New Orleans coverage) on TV. It's shocking to me that more people aren't honoring and remembering what we saw transpire, and which still transpires, not only in New Orleans but in other parts of Louisiana and all along the Gulf Coast. I try to go back every couple of weeks at least, and I still don't feel I'm doing enough.
"By and large (the feedback is from) people wanting me to do more and focus more (on the city)."
I always ask frequent media visitors I talk to for the opposite kind of feedback -- their impressions of our progress.
After all, when they're not flying on jets and riding in town cars, they're hanging out in the world's best and worst datelines.
Frankly, it's hard for locals to see much progress between the crime-scene tape, futile Road Home paperwork and insurance-premium-hike notifications.
And there's no point in comparing home with my own travel experiences here, which amount to nonstop eating, drinking and slurring "So, what did you think of 'The Sopranos' finale?" in the ears of TV starlets to whom I'm known by the nickname "Eeww."
It was a doubly relevant question for Cooper, whose report-card coverage over the next few weeks is sure to be widely viewed, given his role in the earliest coverage of the city's inundation via inept engineering.
"The French Quarter is cleaner than I've ever seen it," he said. "Clearly, they're making a huge impact there. From what everyone tells me, it seems like there's a lack of leadership. There still seems to be a lack of a plan. I'm still confused by what the plan is. I ask this question all the time, 'What is the plan?' I've heard a million different explanations for what the plan is. I've talked to a lot of different politicians, and when they're talking I understand the words they're saying, but when I look back at the transcripts, it doesn't amount to anything. It doesn't make sense."
Which is not to say that Cooper hasn't seen signs of life. Lots of them. New Orleans, such as it is, clearly has got in his blood.
"I found this great bar, The Spotted Cat," he said. "I've thought about maybe doing the show from there. I literally had this magical evening there. I found the place with a couple of friends and it was really a magical night. I wasn't drunk, because I don't drink. It was just this little jazz band, and the guy behind the bar took out his trumpet and started playing and then joined the band. There were, like, six couples swing dancing. I thought, 'I want people to see this. You wouldn't get this anywhere else in America.'