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Timing and Perception are Everything

July 28th, 2008

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, the city is picking itself up. One dish of gumbo ya ya at a time.

The Superdome is no longer a scene of disgust and disgrace.

Residents no longer cry out for help from scorching rooftops. And homeowners no longer post signs warning, “We shoot looters.”

The Times-Picayune’s t-shirts, “We publish come hell and high water,” are now relics, reminding themselves and the world of their bravery.


For the record, New Orleans is not out of the dark. Unemployment, rampant racism and brain-drain (an alarming percentage of young, educated New Orleanans have moved out) are wreaking a second kind of havoc. Lack of childcare, soaring rents and a public transportation system that is operating at one-fifth of capacity compared to pre-Katrina remain other problems.


But, New Orleans could not go on forever as a distraught, destroyed and down-and-out city. Its joi d’vive fought back against the despair caused by one of the nation’s most catastrophic natural events.

How can we track the progress? Certainly, census data outlook is bleak. I recommend a far different route. Throughout the storm, and in the three years after, The Times-Picayune served as a barometer of progress. By now, their tireless dedication to New Orleans and to the journalism profession is well known. But just last week, the newspaper showed us the next step in repairing New Orleans.Brett Anderson and his five, red creole beans returned. Translation for outsiders: The restaurant reviews returned. First up: Mr. B’s.

For three years, Brett Anderson, the paper’s reviewer, wrote instead about how the restaurant industry was recovering. Last Friday, Brett returned to sampling the best of New Orleans fork and knife in hand. But, how did The Times-Picayune know now was the time? Did it take a city-wide poll and ask for permission or host a town hall meeting?

Timing and perception are everything. In November 2006, a writer from GQ came to review restaurants. His review and his character alike were ridiculed. It’s not hard to imagine why. He wrote, “I do admire much about the restaurants, even if their desserts survived Katrina because they were too heavy to float away.”

Timing and perception are everything. In November 2006, a writer from GQ came to review restaurants. His review and his character alike were ridiculed. It’s not hard to imagine why. He wrote, “I do admire much about the restaurants, even if their desserts survived Katrina because they were too heavy to float away.”

New Orleans was not ready for that.

Now, a local writer, an established city restaurant and a strong review (devoid of Katrina jokes), show the city and the country that New Orleans will move on, even if it doesn’t ever fully recover.
The PR lesson (ironically, from the newspaper industry)? Timing and perception are everything.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism, Public Relations
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