Tips from the archives: Covering hurricanes and other natural disasters

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: Eric Hackathorn via Flickr

Photo: Eric Hackathorn via Flickr

With Hurricane Matthew coming ashore on Haiti and approaching Cuba and the United States, this seems like a good time to review some resources and advice that AHCJ has compiled about reporting on hurricanes and other disasters.

Even if you’re not reporting on an affected location, this may be a good time to ask some questions and write about disaster preparedness in your region.

Tip sheets:

Some award-winning stories following Hurricane Katrina:

  • Thousands of families who were left homeless in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina were housed in temporary travel trailers provided by FEMA that were emitting toxic levels of formaldehyde. Dan Rather Reports broke that news and that FEMA was aware of the problem before delivering a single trailer.
  • For the Biloxi, Miss., Sun HeraldMegha Satyanarayana focused on southern Mississippi health care in the years after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Sheri Fink’s Pulitzer-winning article, “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” a collaboration between ProPublica and The New York Times, described what happened at one isolated New Orleans hospital in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina. She found, after more than two years of research, that more medical professionals were involved in the decision to inject patients with drugs to hasten their deaths – and far more patients were injected – than had been previously understood. In an article for AHCJ, “Covering a complex story for the long haul,” Fink explains the reporting and writing process for this 13,000-word article.
  • MedPageToday chronicled the state of the iconic University of Texas Medical Branch a year after Hurricane Ike shut down that Galveston facility and the four-year transformation New Orleans health care has gone through post-Katrina.
  • The Hot Zone: This story documents the health effects of global warming, including the breakdown of the public health system in the aftermath of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina, that will become more commonplace due to climate change. This story also looks at possible solutions and the failure of government agencies to plan accordingly.
  • For PBS Newshour, Betty Ann Bowser and Bridget DeSimone look at “How is the Gulf Coast Mentally Coping with Devastation of Two Disasters?

Resources

Here are some more resources from HealthJournalism.org.

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