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'Times-Picayune' Staff Returns to New Orleans

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'Times-Picayune' Staff Returns to New Orleans

Katrina & Beyond

'Times-Picayune' Staff Returns to New Orleans

'Times-Picayune' Staff Returns to New Orleans

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The staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper has returned to their offices in the city, after temporarily moving operations to the capital of Baton Rouge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's storm damage. Noah Adams checks in with editor Jim Amoss, who says the paper is still reporting on the management failures that led to the devastating flood of the city and tens of thousands of abandoned evacuees.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

It has been nine weeks since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. In New Orleans, hundreds of people died. Tens of thousands of homes were flooded. In the time since, the local newspaper, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, has been a lifeline for residents. Earlier today, I asked the paper's editor, Jim Amoss, what today's front page looks like.

Mr. JIM AMOSS (The New Orleans Times-Picayune): It's a mixed bag very much the way New Orleans is a mixed bag today. You know, there are some signs of resurgence and rebirth, a story about an important part of town across the river, one of the first to emerge and to be humming with residential and commercial activity, a place called Algiers.

ADAMS: Algiers is OK.

Mr. AMOSS: Algiers is a beacon in--I won't say an otherwise dark New Orleans but a place that is still struggling to come to life.

ADAMS: What is the photograph at the center of the front page?

Mr. AMOSS: The main photograph on our page one shows a bus arriving, carrying workers from Baton Rouge. It's a regular bus service that FEMA is sponsoring at least for the next two weeks to bring workers into the city, and it's one of the dire needs of the city to have people who can perform the jobs that are needed to make an economy run.

ADAMS: Yeah, it's one of the biggest issues there at the moment. What time do they have to get on the bus in Baton Rouge to get to work in New Orleans?

Mr. AMOSS: The first bus leaves at 4:30 AM, and if you do the trek from Baton Rouge to New Orleans these days, unless you get started before 5 in the morning, there's a horrendous traffic jam each morning coming into the city, which I guess is a good sign. People are going back to their workplaces even if they don't have housing yet in the city.

ADAMS: If you do this, can you actually work that day when you get off the bus?

Mr. AMOSS: No, it's just started this week, and it's a little bit shaky, and the story points out that many of these people arrive, didn't quite know where to go or what jobs were available, but eventually some found their way to places that were hiring. One person just walked down Bourbon Street and stumbled on to a job as a cook in one of the restaurants.

ADAMS: One of your headlines says this: Corps Wanted Gate Instead Of Levee Walls. What is that about?

Mr. AMOSS: Well, that is about what went wrong with the levees that are supposed to protect the city and what must be done to build levees that will protect us and will cause us to want to live here in the future. And this particular story deals with a proposal in the early 1990s to build gates at the very shore of Lake Pontchartrain where the drainage canal that drains the city of rainwater enter into the lake. And these gates, if they had been built, would have prevented the storm surge that inundated the canals and busted through the levees and flooded the city. Had they been in place, this probably would not have happened.

ADAMS: You know, almost every week we hear a news story about the failure of the levees and what could have been done and who did what wrong and how much the fix would cost and whether or not that would really work. What about this one? Does this seem really practical?

Mr. AMOSS: It certainly would have prevented the direst of the flooding. The disadvantage of the gates and the reason they were opposed by the local sewage and water board is that they make it more difficult to pump rainwater out of the city. But if you weigh the disadvantage of having some rainwater in your streets vs. having the city inundated by Lake Pontchartrain, I think there's really no contest.

ADAMS: If someone is reading The Times-Picayune this morning looking for a real bright spot--we mentioned Algiers, but just for some sort of uplift either nationally or locally, is it there on the front page?

Mr. AMOSS: I would take some uplift and some comfort from an item that we have that says that a local music festival has returned to the city and took place over the weekend and drew some 15,000 people, which in these post-Katrina days is a significant crowd.

ADAMS: Jim Amoss is the editor of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Thank you, sir.

Mr. AMOSS: Thank you.

ADAMS: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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