Starting Over
Loss and Renewal
in Katrina's Aftermath
Nothing brings a news story home like first-hand reporting — meeting the people you are covering, seeing where and how they live.

That kind of reporting led to this project, which began when more than 300 Hurricane Katrina evacuees were brought to West Virginia in 2005. Inspired to cover the local angle of the unfolding national story, students and faculty at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism went out into the field.

We began recording, videotaping, photographing and writing about the evacuees, who were housed at Camp Dawson, a military training base in rural Preston County, less than an hour from WVU.

To display the students’ work, the journalism school deigned this convergence website and launched it in November 2005.

In December, the WVU students’ reporting continued. Three students and a faculty member flew to New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina survivors Greg and Glenda Avery who were returning home to assess the damage and reconnect with family and friends. Ivy Guiler, Lingbing Hang and Justin Weaver reported for eight days in Louisiana, seeing for themselves the physical and emotional damage caused by a Category 5 storm.

They watched the Averys enter their home for the first time since being evacuated to West Virginia. They saw the couple sort through their flood-soaked belongings and haul most of them to the curb, standing by helplessly as trash collectors took it all away. The students reported in the Avery’s Uptown neighborhood, the 9th Ward, the Garden District and other parts of the city. They found legally blind Patrick Burke, who recently returned from West Virginia, living between his moldy home and a FEMA trailer in Metairie, just outside New Orleans. They traveled to Pointe Coupee Parish, where many residents protested putting FEMA trailers in the community.

The students saw poverty and wealth. They saw conflict, and they saw people coming together, despite their differences, to rebuild their homes and their lives.

The students returned home with a better understanding of the people they were covering.

Because several evacuees decided to relocate permanently to our community, the school offered a special topics course during Spring semester 2006. More than a dozen students enrolled in the class and continued their reporting. They also studied the websites of metropolitan media outlets around the country, analyzing the quality of their multimedia pieces.

Throughout this experience, students have learned to work in teams to produce stories in multiple formats for the Internet. They combined their talents to allow you, the viewer, to self-navigate through stories of people who survived Hurricane Katrina and are moving on with their lives.

We thank you for visiting our website.

BONNIE STEWART
Assistant Professor and Project Director