Media Critique Olivia Skedd

In 2015, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, The New York Times published a multimedia story on what the city of New Orleans is like today. Through the work of writers Campbell Robertson and Richard Fausset and videographers Alexandra Garcia, Margaret Cheatham Williams and Andrew Blackwell, they were able to create a work that put readers in the mindset of the many situations going on in New Orleans. Combining video, photos, text, and graphics, the creators were able to split the story into 7 parts, each a different neighborhood in New Orleans, detailing what has become after the 10 years since Katrina.
The piece begins with an overview of all that was lost to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, with a city map breaking down the amount of flooding to each neighborhood. Even before Katrina, the city was divided between the rich and the poor, but since the hurricane, that division has increased. The city has become a ground for testing on housing, education, and socio-economics. The piece delves into the specifics of how some neighborhoods lost so much while others came back more prosperous and wealthier. Some neighborhoods have been completely deserted while others have had an influx of millennials wanting the “New Orleans experience”. There were seven neighborhoods discussed; Treme, Mid-City, Lower Ninth Ward, Central Business District, BW Cooper, Lakeview, and New Orleans East. Before the start of each section, there is a photo of the neighborhood right after the hurricane hit it in 2005 contrasted with a brief video of a resident saying what the neighborhood used to be like and what it’s like now. Included in all of the sections were various maps that visually showed what was being written about; increase in Hispanic populations, rent and household incomes, movement of white and black populations.
There is so much packed into this piece that parts get lost, but what really makes it work is the repetition in the layout. Each section will start with a photo, go to a video, followed by text, then concluded with a graphic showing the data that was written about. The best part of this multimedia story was the use of videos. Each video was extremely personal and intimate. Rather than hearing an interviewer ask New Orleanians questions, the residents were given full range to speak what they truly felt. After watching the video and then reading the text, I was able to hear the person’s voice in my head and the tone they were saying when quoted. The photos showing what the city looked like after the hurricane was vital to understand the destruction that it caused, but even still it was shocking to read this piece and learn that some people haven’t been able to move back to their homes yet. Sometimes the videos were too short. I understand that they can’t take up the whole piece, but I just wanted them to keep going, a minute and a half felt too short.
This was one of my favorite multimedia pieces that I’ve read so far. The combination of photography, videos, and text each building off of one another truly benefited this story. There was so much discussed in this piece like public education, housing, economic disparity, gentrification, crime, that having a person describe it from their point of view made me remember all the issues. Overall The New York Times did an excellent job on this piece and they should follow up with in-depth pieces on the issues they wrote about.

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