Ready for the Big One: Making the Case for Disaster Preparedness Reporting

By: John Dyer | Nieman Reports

In 2002, Mark Schleifstein and a team of reporters in New Orleans wrote “Washing Away,” a ?ve-part series in The Times-Picayune that predicted the devastation of Hurricane Katrina three years later. When the series ran, the public was oblivious to experts’ fears that a major hurricane was likely to someday overcome the Big Easy’s levees. Using maps, illustrations, and other storytelling, the newspaper revealed how poor maintenance, erosion, and even burrowing semiaquatic rodents called nutria had weakened flood barriers in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and other areas Katrina would later hit hard.

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