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January 11, 2008

unnatural disaster, natural responses

The Open Society Institute, sponsor of the Katrina Media Fellowship that funded my work in New Orleans, has created a fascinating new website, "Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster". (My own page on the site is here.) It's a great resource, not least because it allows you to explore and cross-reference various strands of the post-Katrina New Orleans experience (culture, insurance, criminal justice, etc.). as well as across media (print, radio, photography, film). I'm in brilliant company in this fellowship, as you'll see, all of us responding to an unnatural disaster by doing what comes naturally -- getting and telling the stories.

The OSI press release is below.

NEW YORK -The Open Society Institute today launched a multimedia website documenting the social and economic toll of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With numerous never-before-seen photos, articles, radio clips, and videos, the website calls for increased attention to the larger issues of race, poverty, and government neglect that were laid bare by the storms.

Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster (www.katrinamedia.org) chronicles the struggles and triumphs of Gulf Coast residents since the destruction more than two years ago. Through stories and images, the site explores what is preventing residents from recovering from the disaster and returning home. It features the work of dozens of award-winning print and radio journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and youth media organizations, all of whom are OSI Katrina Media Fellows.

"Our goal is to spark a national debate around poverty and racism in America beyond the Katrina anniversaries," said Erlin Ibreck, director of grantmaking strategies at OSI. "The site is devoted exclusively to the aftermath of the hurricanes as documented by investigative reporters. Very few news outlets have the resources to do this."

The site offers in-depth reporting on a range of issues including the threat to the musical heritage of New Orleans, the failure of the New Orleans justice system, and a photo essay exploring the impact of reconstruction efforts on the racial composition of the city.

Katrinamedia.org examines life after the floods from a range of perspectives, focusing on historically neglected groups like the elderly, the incarcerated, and low-income and immigrant communities.

"The tragedy that follows Katrina and the floods is far from over," said Larry Blumenfeld, an OSI Katrina Media Fellow. "Yet the news coverage has largely faded away, and awareness of these issues is, more than ever, necessary."

The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation, works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. OSI works in over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States.

Posted by blumenfeld at January 11, 2008 4:39 PM

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