By: Joe Strupp
Volunteers from The Dart Society have been working in New Orleans for several months to help rebuild the city through a project that includes journalists at the nearby Times-Picayune, according to a press release.
The Dart Society is comprised of those who have received awards and fellowships from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington. The release stated that Dart Society journalists have been working in New Orleans since February, “slinging hammers and gutting homes with their Times-Picayune counterparts in a city still devastated by Katrina’s wrath.”
“The idea came in November when Dart Society fellow Natalie Pompilio, a former Times-Picayune reporter who covered the hurricane for The Philadelphia Inquirer, announced plans to spend four months helping to rebuild New Orleans,” the release stated. “The first of the society’s reporters and photographers, Dave Cullen of Denver, arrived in New Orleans just before Mardi Gras.”
“A few friends who I mentioned the trip to thanked me for doing it, and
I was a bit taken aback,” Cullen said. “Clearly, I’m going to get much more out of this experience than I’m giving.”
Dart Society leaders added that Cullen and others are joining Times-Picayune journalists in a group known as “the Muckrakers.” Led by Suzanne Stouse, a Times-Picayune editor, the Muckrakers first worked on colleagues’ homes and now spend time repairing other houses.
“The Times-Picayune has been such a strong advocate for civic engagement, for neighbor helping neighbor through this hell – and as many know, thousands of homes still lay in ruin,” said Stouse. “The Muckrakers figure it’s fairly incumbent upon us to follow our own lead in word and deed. … Dart’s timing — and its fellows’ palpable enthusiasm for the idea of journalists helping journalists help their broken city — could not be better.”
Dart Society President Penny Cockerell said this mission helps journalists from both organizations. “As we talked, it became so clear that journalists in the Gulf region were still dealing with such overwhelming stuff,” Cockerell said. “We wanted to join them, get our hands dirty, and show some solidarity with these journalists who’ve done a tremendous job reporting while still suffering themselves.”