One of the hallmarks of Katrina coverage has been just that — the personal experiences of those who covered it. And some have been more emotionally revealing of on-air personalities than news consumers have been otherwise used to, as Public Eye noted recently. But we haven't heard too much about the experiences of those behind the scenes who were also covering the story and might offer a different perspective.
So we spoke with CBS "Evening News" producer Max McClellan and CBS News cameraman Don Lee, who traveled with correspondent John Roberts during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina about what it was like to be in the disaster zone.
Katrina: Behind The Lens
As you'll hear from McClellan and Lee, the challenge of covering a story rife with so much chaos and confusion becomes clear – tires go flat, hotel rooms flood, cars sink underwater, boat engines don't always work. But it also becomes clear that for both men, that really wasn't the biggest challenge. Both were attached to and playing roles in this story in ways that they'd never anticipated or experienced before.
In some ways, they became a part of the story. There were several points when production equipment had to be put aside simply to help the victims who surrounded them at every turn. "Every time we stopped, somebody was in a life or death situation," said Lee.
Behind The Lens, Pt. 2
But the more important task, as both men soon realized, was making sure the story was told. During the first few days, as people continued to go without help, said Lee, it became clear that "if the pictures don't get out, people are going to die … because people [outside of New Orleans] didn't know what was going on."
"We were doing some sort of service -- good or bad -- but some sort of service in terms of shining a light on this story that was -- at least for the first couple of days -- inexplicably ignored at a certain level," said McClellan.
Behind The Lens, Pt. 3
You'll hear about a lot of stories that stood out for both men. Some are disturbing -- encountering a woman whose husband died at her feet as they waited for help. Some are hopeful -- a woman whom they first met when her home was submerged in water and who had found a place to stay by the time they encountered her next. Others are somewhat jarring -- a conversation with a member of the 82nd Airborne who said that the military was waiting to go into New Orleans because it was "too dangerous."
Their impressions are informative in all kinds of ways, but we'll leave the interpretations up to you. The full interview lasts a little more than 30 minutes, so we've broken it up into three segments and left it pretty much unedited. Have a look and let us know what you think.