Communicating Katrina: A Resilient Media

August 2008 (VOL. 26, NO. 2)

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This case study on news media operations during disaster examines the impediments experienced by newspapers and television stations in two states that were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Through management surveys in Louisiana and Mississippi, this research reveals that, although both states are hurricane prone areas, almost half of the respondents did not have a disaster plan in place. Even more interesting to note, one year following Katrina, many still did not have a plan-although a majority said they were currently working on one. These findings are consistent with existing research on communications and on other businesses that seldom have plans in place for a disaster even when business owners’ risk perceptions are high. This research also suggests that, similar to other research on businesses in disaster, large news media operations may be better prepared than medium to small sized businesses. Furthermore, lessons learned from this research suggest crisis plans for media outlets should address human resource issues (such as aiding families of staff members), technology issues, and the unique needs for information distribution when there are power outages and workplaces destroyed.