St. Patrick Catholic School
The students at Southern Miss’ Remembering Katrina High School Journalism Workshop spoke with former CNN reporter Kathleen Koch Monday via Skype about her experience covering Hurricane Katrina as well as filming her Hurricane Katrina documentary.
Koch shared her emotions with the students as she reflected on the filming of “Saving My Town: The Fight for Bay St. Louis,” a documentary representing the struggles Katrina brought to the Mississippi Gulf Coast 10 years ago.
In her documentary, Koch returned to her former home in Bay St. Louis to report the devastation left behind by the storm. The documentary followed Koch as she walked down the streets of her destroyed hometown and captured her emotions in response to what she saw.
“It is the hardest story I have covered,” Koch said.
Reporting natural disasters was never easy for Koch, but she had never experienced a natural disaster that directly affected the people and places that she loved.
“It was my worst childhood nightmare,” Koch said. “I saw people lose their houses during hurricanes. It was a nightmare to come back to nothing.”
Koch also spoke of the emotional difficulty that was placed upon her when she witnessed her neighbors struggling, but she could not do anything to help them.
“As a journalist you have to avoid putting yourself into the story,” Koch said.
She shared how a news report must consist of fact and emotions should be pushed aside. Koch explained how she had to attempt to detach herself from the specific subject she was reporting on, especially in the case of post-Katrina Bay St. Louis.
Directly after Katrina, the New Orleans area was receiving more media coverage than the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Koch said she felt it was her duty as a former Coast resident to tell the story of those affected by the storm. She knew that she was unable to give the Bay St. Louis residents all the material things they needed, but the one thing she could offer them was a voice.
When the camera was not rolling, Koch attempted to do her part to rebuild her hometown. She said she was happy to take part in demolishing old houses and delivering food and water.
Koch explained to the students that even though going home was a painful experience, she was happy to do anything to help rebuild the Coast. She informed the students about the generosity of people from all over the world.
Volunteers and organizations came to bring supplies, but the generosity of the residents was most inspiring. Koch said neighbors came together to help each other in any way they could.
“Katrina was one of those times it made you feel good to be a journalist, despite how hard it was,” Koch said.
Koch left the students with the message that journalism does have an impact on people, and that it is more than just writing. It gave her a purpose, and it gave a voice to the voiceless.