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Korean journalists visit Loyola to meet with student writers about 'My Katrina Story' project

Loyola press release - June 30, 2015

More than 20 broadcast journalists from South Korea came to Loyola University New Orleans’ School of Mass Communication to talk with students about “My Katrina Story” project, a series of articles chronicling New Orleanians’ experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina written by journalism students.

The Korean journalists were in New Orleans to learn about disaster management in the U.S. and the role of the media, according to Svetlana Pizzati of the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council, who arranged the visit. Kwan Su Son, president of the Korea Broadcasting Journalist Association, was among the visitors along with reporters and crew from the more than 15 television news stations.

“As the 10th anniversary of Katrina approaches, we wanted a project to give our students perspective. We also wanted them to learn firsthand how the best stories are from the people who were part of the experience,” journalism instructor Laura Beatty said. “We thought getting the people of New Orleans to tell their individual stories accomplished that.”

Beatty partnered with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune to provide a digital platform for sharing these stories. They run once a week.

“Getting people to open up, that is the hardest part,” Mary Staes, a senior at Loyola, told the group. “You can’t go in and just start asking questions. You have to warm people up; share something about yourself. This is not a typical interview.”

Staes interviewed restaurateur Leah Chase of Dookie Chase.

“Here is this 90-year-old lady who lost everything, her home and her business. She still doesn’t have everything back the way she wants it 10 years later. How do you hear that story and not be affected by it?,” Staes said.

Burke Bischoff ‘15, who graduated in May, interviewed Robert Reed, Loyola’s assistant vice president for student affairs. Reed was charged with evacuating and finding shelter for Loyola students while dealing with the loss of his home in New Orleans East. Both Bischoff and Reed met with the Korean journalists.

“I was homeless. For the first time in my life, I was homeless,” Reed said. He and the students were in a shelter in Baton Rouge, he said, and once he got everyone safely home he realized he had no place to go.

“I couldn’t return to Loyola. I had no home in the east. I was homeless.”

Reed told the group he was willing to share his Katrina story despite the difficulty of talking about something so emotional.

“It is important that our story be told so we continue to work to get everyone back and improve the city.”

Bischoff said the people he interviewed felt the same way.

“I talked to a man whose brother committed suicide,” Bischoff said. “But he was willing to talk, willing to share with me his experiences because it was important to him.”

The Korean journalists were in New Orleans for five days. They also met with officials from the Louisiana Army and Air National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and WWL-TV.