chapter  10
Recoding New Orleans: News, Race, Representation and Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke
Pages 20

On September 2, 2005, the national 9 p.m. Prime News Tonight newscast on CNN’s Headline News cable network opened much like coverage of Hurricane Katrina by other TV networks in the early days after the storm. Co-anchor Erica Hill: “We begin tonight with the latest for you from New Orleans, a city drowning in chaos and at this point on the brink of exploding. And there the sun has set on another day of desperate anarchy.” Co-anchor Mike Galanos continues: “Hurricane victims will spend the next several hours fighting to stay alive amidst the turmoil and hope tomorrow will bring some relief. An atmosphere of lawlessness is settling over New Orleans as snipers freely open fire on police and rescue crews. And desperate hospital workers moved patients up to higher floors to escape looters. But officials say 4,200 National Guard troops will be deployed in the next three days.” As the audience is shown footage of people — virtually all of them black — stranded by the storm near the New Orleans Convention Center, a series of subtitles reads, “KATRINA: THE DEVASTATION,” “SNIPERS FIRING ON POLICE & RESCUE CREWS IN NEW ORLEANS,” “TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ON STREETS IN NEW ORLEANS,” “NEW ORLEANS DESPARATION.” As the broadcast continues, the audience hears that looters had overturned rescue boats, that teenage boys had raped young girls and that “chaos ruled.”