When The Chips Are Down, Journalism Matters

Romensko points to this fascinating interview with Chris Rose of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

SEVEN DAYS: How was the Times-Picayune perceived before Hurricane Katrina?

CHRIS ROSE: We’ve always been a very vital and vigorous part of the community here . . . What did not happen before the storm that happens now is that, when you get introduced as being from the Times-Picayune at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, people stand up and clap for you. We’re treated as heroes.

Katrina brought back that very poignant, meaningful mission of journalism — like it really, really mattered every day what came down on people’s doorsteps. Suddenly, high school students to folks 90 years old were reading the paper because we were the only ones people could trust.

The storm brought down a quintessential dichotomy in the community: There were those who cut and run, and there were those who stepped up, at great sacrifice. There’s no question, no question, the Times-Picayune stepped up. And in the vacuum of political and corporate leadership, we carried the fucking day in this town.

There’s also this bit:

The writers and the photographers were in the city and management was relocated to Baton Rouge by virtue of our building flooding. You take management and move them 70 miles away from staff, and we win two Pulitzer prizes. You think that’s a coincidence? That’s not only a paradigm shift to follow in journalism, but in any corporate structure.

Rose’s collection of columns, 1 Dead in Attic is now available from Simon & Schuster. Rose originally sold 65,000 copies of a self-published edition.