The National Media Forgot About Lake Charles – So What?
If a massive earthquake destroyed over 90% of Los Angeles, it would be all anyone could talk about for months. If New York City had some catastrophic event take down its electrical grid for just a week, chaos would erupt in the streets. Federal and state and private aid would pour in. Huge campaigns and charity benefits would be organized.
We’d all “be in this together” as a nation. Movies and TV shows would be made about the disaster and its aftermath. Hashtags like #LAstrong and #NYCProud would be everywhere.
I know this because that’s exactly what happened with Katrina and New Orleans. And with Harvey and Houston. And with New York and literally any significant blackout it's ever experienced.
Yet, just 72 hours after Louisiana was hit by the strongest hurricane to make landfall in 150 years, we weren't even trending anymore. At first, I was as outraged about it as everyone else, but then I thought: So what?
First of all, no one on the national level even knows Lake Charles exists or how to spell Calcasieu, and they know even less than nothing about the smaller towns in less populated (and even harder hit) parishes like Cameron. The national media didn't care about Beaumont or Lumberton over in Southeast Texas when Harvey hit. That was the Houston hurricane. The same thing happened with Katrina for every city that wasn't New Orleans. People care about what they know. Everything else is just an abstract.
And that's okay.
What would ongoing national media attention do for us, anyway? There are only so many cases of water well-meaning church groups in Nebraska can send our way before we don't really need them anymore. Tarps and food and fuel are fantastic during the early stages of recovery - and we very much appreciate all the help caring groups, individuals, and companies have given us so far - but what matters most is what happens after we don't need all that early aid anymore.
Entergy is working hard to restore power to our area, and it looks like they're going to keep outpacing expectations to get most of us back on the grid sooner rather than later. Once that happens, after we have power and don't need to boil the water anymore, no one will care. They were never going to care for long anyway, even if we were a big name city. That kind of commitment to the long haul of recovery is specifically reserved for locals.
And you won't find better locals than we have right here.
We saw it before the storm, with KPLC's weather team providing level-headed, earnest coverage of the storm with reliable, consistent forecasts. We saw it during the storm, as Gator 99.5's Buddy Russ stayed behind as the rest of us evacuated to bring regular updates to listeners through Facebook Live. And we continued to see it after the storm, as KPLC took to online broadcasts after losing their tower and Gator 99.5 got back on the air with Mike Soileau and Buddy Russ through spit and duct tape and a little engineering ingenuity from Townsquare's technical team.
As the days went on, more radio stations came back on the air and online coverage never stopped. Chad Austin rejoined Mike Soileau and Buddy Russ on Gator 99.5. Erik Tee and Gina Cook were back in the building with 107 Jamz, and Mikey O was behind the mic on 92.9 The Lake. Local residents and business owners showed up to support their local media, bringing food and relief to personalities living, working, and sleeping in their studios to keep us informed and even entertained while we all struggle to put our lives back together.
So while the national media may have already abandoned us, local media never will. Local support never will. Neighbors will always be here, helping neighbors. Local businesses will always show up with food and water and supplies, and local organizations will come together to build new bridges in the community.
Southwest Louisiana will always take care of Southwest Louisiana, regardless of how much body armor Jim Cantore wears to cover a storm or how quickly the national media turns off its cameras.
National media coverage won't help us cut away the trees that fell on our homes, but our friends will. National news stories won't bring back what we've lost or help us rebuild something new, but our local community will. National attention might get us national sympathy, but we don't need anyone's pity. All we'll ever need in Southwest Louisiana is what we'll always have: each other.
Local beats national.