Broadcast Students in New Orleans to Document Katrina Radio Operations

A team of Elon broadcast and new media majors are in New Orleans the next week gathering interviews and documenting the importance of radio during Hurricane Katrina. The project was conceived by associate professor and associate dean of the School of Communications Connie Book after reading about the struggle and then success of local radio to resume operations post Katrina as a consortium called United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans. 

As a result of the New Orleans event, the radio industry is rewriting its emergency response.  The story of Hurricane Katrina also demonstrates the importance of local radio when public safety communications systems fail. 

Clear Channel radio has provided in kind support for the project, which includes the publication of a primer for radio and emergency broadcasting stakeholders.  During the next week students will be keeping a blog of their experiences via  The week includes interviews with radio executives, public safety officials, radio engineers, ham radio operators and local non-profits that utilized radio. 

"We've learned that radio waves, typically thought of as providers of entertainment in today's marketplace, move from entertaining to sustaining local communities during events like Hurricane Katrina.," Book said. "I think its incumbent upon the academic community to preserve and perpetuate these stories to better understand the historical and cultural events of our time. I have a lot of gratitude that Dick Lewis, a vice president with Clear Channel radio, agrees and stepped forward to help with this project."

One of the students in the course, senior broadcast major Tiffany Lyons, said, "A friend asked me what class I was taking this semester and I said it's not really a class.  I mean it is a class, but its a project, too, and we are in the middle of it." 

In addition to studying broadcast events during Hurricane Katrina, students are reading and research each of their own topic areas, Lyons is responsible for documenting the broadcast engineering issues presented by wind and water damage and how ingenuity and the use of satellite and the internet brought radio stations back on the air.


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