The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

The Big Easy: Where Nothing is Easy

After Nightly News and after our prime-time special concluded Monday night, we drove back to our hotel. Which also happens to be President Bush's hotel. Big mistake. In the old days (as recently as when I covered President Clinton), it wasn't unusual for people to enter the lobby of a major metropolitan hotel (depending on configuration) and have no clue that the Leader of the Free World was upstairs ordering room service. In the old days, it used to be cool to let it be known you were staying "at HIS hotel." No more. In the post-9/11 world, the very last place you want to stay is the president's hotel.

When we arrived last night, we were stopped at a steel barricade, manned by Secret Service, Louisiana State Police and National Guard troops with dogs. I explained that we simply wanted to go to our hotel rooms, and that I was joining up with the president's traveling "bubble" in the motorcade, early tomorrow. That's when a tall guy, straight-faced and apparently born completely without irony... approached our menacing rental car. He resembled both rare drawings of President Tyler and photos of Tommy Smothers. Anyway, we were "instructed" by this straight-faced guy with a blue blazer, an earpiece and male pattern baldness, that we "are holding due to a movement." 

There's just so much good material there. A rich trove, really. What he meant was: the president and the first lady were dining at Mother's Restaurant around the corner and would be moving through the streets in his motorcade, and so no one could possibly drive or walk anywhere near the hotel. The restaurant was even more heavily-fortified: members of the black-clad Secret Service "CAT" team were spotted in the back alley with massive, cello-sized automatic weapon cases, post-movement. Not a cello player among them.
                     
Just to show that I was paying attention during my own years of dealing with the Secret Service, I asked to talk to the "SAC" (Special Agent in Charge). The call was placed to Washington, a call was placed inside the hotel, but the "SAC" was apparently not able to either hasten or break the movement.

We held, in the nighttime heat, for the duration of the movement. It seemed like the movement took forever. Then, the long hold was suddenly lifted. The male pattern baldness/blazer guy made the "movement over" sign with his hand, the troops parted, the dogs parted. Then they let us in. Elements of the motorcade were parked in the hotel driveway (the swanky new "on the road" version of the black Suburban and its twin decoy, both tricked out with flag stands and presidential seals on the rear passenger doors), as the aforementioned Leader had just walked through the lobby. I did enjoy getting a good look at the new generation motorcade communications vehicle -- a heavily-retrofitted Suburban nicknamed "Roadrunner," which allows the president to place a scrambled satellite telephone call to Gen. Abizaid, Vladimir Putin or Dick Cheney -- from a motorcade moving at 60 miles-an-hour. I also chatted up the White House technicians who were transporting the "blue goose" podium being used at today's speech by the president in New Orleans. Once in the rarefied air of our own hotel lobby, the Uniformed Secret Service then checked us all before we were allowed the thrill of entering, one hour later, our own hotel rooms. Next time, it's the Holiday Inn on the interstate.

It was a nice distraction for the first few minutes. The nighttime drive through parts of New Orleans East was downright depressing. There's no power for long stretches of the city. One of our producers said, "it looks like East Germany." And it did.

Our local station here, while airing our NBC documentary, added a "crawl" graphic at the bottom of the screen that said, in part, "IF YOU ARE OVERWHELMED (by the images on the screen)..." and then they offered a mental health call-in line. It's still that bad here. Just SEEING what these good people went through... is enough to send SOME of these good people... right over the edge.

It is still such a sad place.

Editor's note: If you missed Monday night's documentary about the first five days of Hurricane Katrina, in Brian's own words, you can read or watch it here.

Read more from Brian Williams 2006, NBC's Gulf Coast recovery files

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST An exclusive interview with Pres. Bush

Email this EMAIL THIS

COMMENTS

Missed the interview, not a biggy on my list. I say jolly for you if you did nail his butt to the fence. He is an enemy to the poor american people, and a puppy to the big business interest. President Clinton would have made even sr bush paltable to the
American public.

Excellent coverage again in New orleans. I was at home last year watching every minute of the coverage. Your own words heLped put in perspective first why the press left N.O. and why we should not be allowed to withhold empathy by judging people's survival behavior which was being done when the violence broke out there.
I remember those "split screne" comments by Brown and Pres.Bush as he was coming off vacation (obviously before the press secretaries got a chance to prepare him). I hope to see them again come election time because they were unbelievable.

Brian, Thank you man! I too am a fan of Garland. God Bless

To Patrick of NOLA I challenge you and others to go to the following web site: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewNation.asp?Page=%5CNation%5Carchive%5C200509%5CNAT20050907a.html
and read the article. I am not making false statements. It appears, the levee board is a local agency. Katrina was a tragedy. My heart went out to those in NO, and I also had family in Gulf Port, MS who also lost their homes, two of the three were complete loses. Why are we so ready to blame the federal government, that is my point, why is there not the same level of blame for the Governor of LA, and the Mayor of NO. Where was the plan by NO to handle this diaster, it has to start there. People who choose to live under sea level have to know the potential exist for just this kind of diaster. Please read the facts of the above story, and others like it and then we can discuss the facts.

Brian,

As long as you've been covering the White House, I would think you would know that it is SAIC (SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE) not SAC. Even us lowly civilians know that.

I was disappointed in last night's program. Bush already has Fox News and for the most part CNN. Why does he need more air time devoted to spin and photo op? He is caviler. He grandstanded last year saying he would commit 110 billion to help the devastated areas rebuild. With no initiative on his part and no follow up only 40 billion has been spent. Because of lack of foresight and inadequate planning far too much of this went to the least deserving. The poor and truly needy have received but little. Bush should be ashamed to see the true state of affairs in New Orleans.

The Media needs to "follow the money" and do some basic investigative reporting. I would start with the New Orleans Levee Board. Folks ! Do not fool yourself. Millions of dollars have gone to NOLA for YEARS to improve the Levees. Where did the money go ? Is it possible that if the "Truth" ever saw the light of day that hundreds of polticians, government officals , and influential monied interests would be in Prison ? Oh hell yes. These are the same people that will steal and ensure that all the Contracts go to the "right people".

Brian,
Great job with tonight's broadcast. I agree with some of the other folks who have written in tonight and this morning ask the President who is responsible. If the bull horn was the height of Mr. Bush's presidency, why can't he take responsiblity for failing the people of the Gulf Coast, the way John F. Kennedy did for what happened in Cuba. To Amanda in New Jersey I agree with you that the President is out of touch. Just like his father in the debate in Richmond, Va. ten years ago. He doesn't get it.

To Kathleen of Little Rock Arkansas- since when did the government of Louisiana and New Orleans misuse federal government money to maintain and repair the levee system?!?

Maybe you need a little reminder- neither the state nor local government is responsible for maintaining and repairing levees- that duty is reserved for the levee board of New Orleans.

Furthermore, in March 2003, the federal government stripped almost all of the funding for the maintenence of the Louisiana levee system. Those went to... the war in Iraq. Surprise surprise.

Please, before you make completely false statements like your post, do your research. And say hi to the thousands of FEMA trailers still waiting for New Orleanians and Mississippians in your backyard.

I watched your special last night and I was deeply moved. You said everything that I have been thinking for the past year and I get angry all over again how these people were failed by all aspects of government, state and federal. It is just a shame that the media and ordinary citizens showed up in the gulf before our federal government sent help. 4 days to send help is totally unacceptable. We can send help overseas in a day ( and we have) but it takes 4 days to send help to New Orleans? How many of those poor people that died in the streets, or in their homes, or in the Superdome could have survived if help arrived in those 4 days.

I am African American and I don't usually blame everything on race and I 95% believe that it was not a racial issue. However, I do believe that it as an economic issue and sadly, the majority of the poor in New Orleans are black. I don't know if this was the reason for the slow response of our government but it is still disgracefull. I still cry when I see the images on tv and I think it is sad that this happened in the US.

Hopefully, this taught local and Federal Governments to be better prepared and to not totally betray the people they represent, like happened during Hurricane Katrina.

I have to disagree with the thought that the people who stayed behind expected people to take care of them. Did they expect to lose their lives, Did they expect to lose their homes? Did they expect to be left to die in their homes or on the streets for days without help? Did they deserve what they got?? No, they did not. No one deserves that. A lot of people that stayed had no way out. None. If you are poor and don't have the means, there was no other option for these people. So, it is easy for us to question why they stayed but many had no other options and no means to leave.

Again, Brian, I loved the special and thought it was very well done and gave a great voice and perspective to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Williams, you have a new fan! Wonderful interview with Bush (so sad he is our president) and last nights Hurricane Katrina special report was the saddest thing I've ever seen. I was heartbroken.

Please continue to tell us the truth!

The special report on Hurricane Katrina last evening with Brian Williams was superb. I could not tear myself away and was emotionally distraught afterward. How could we let this happen??
The Bush interview, tonight, was also excellent. It is so sad that this man represents our great country. It will be the best day in the world when this administration is gone.
Thank you, Mr. Williams, for your reporting and for showing us that all is not lost on the usually horrible news reporting we get. You have a new fan!

As a former resident of New Orleans, it amazes me the selfishness of some people in the rest of the country. If New Orleanians/Louisianans were as selfish, they would place a surchange for unloading the barges of grain from the Midwest (incl. Illinois) and for the oil and gas that has been pumped out of the ground there, helping it to sink. Then they could have build their own floodwalls. Just be glad they aren't, or you might be paying $2 for bananas, and $8 for a gallon of gas.

Last nights Brian Williams Special on Katrina renewed my faith in hard hitting journalism. Brian Williams was EXCELLENT! With the departure of Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings, who would fill the void?? Now we know Mr. Williams has the strength to carry the torch forward.

Mr. Williams,
Fight the good fight...DO NOT let me ever forget!

Dear Brian Williams,
Your evening news and your special on Katrina should be used as a benchmark for reporters afraid to ask questions. Your segment with Professor Dyson was particularly elucidating. It struck me that if our current president spoke as honestly, as eloquently and as straightforward as Professor Dyson did last night, our country would likely be respected and supported by other nations, as it was before 9/11.
Thank you, Mr. Williams, for standing up for the truth.
Sincerely.

As I recall Mr. Willians promised to include Mississippi in his continuing coverage of the Katrina Disaster. But once again we see New Orleans at the front, sometimes the only thing covered. I think it should be remembered that the disaster in New Orleans was in large part a man made disaster. Actually the most dangerous part of the hurricane was further East. New Orleans was on the Western side of the hurricane where the force is always lowest. The wind having crossed over land on the Eastern side and have lessened its force. The real storm hit far Eastern Louisiana and Mississippi. Little towns largely disappeared. Long Beach, Waveland, Pass Christian and others heavily damaged such as Biloxi, Gulf Port and Pascagoula. The heavy damage from wind and water continued on into Alabama.

The man made disaster was faulty levees, the practice of heavily building below sea level made the New Orleans disaster inevitable. All of it was clearly predicted by LSU report detailing the destruction just as it happened. Other damage came from poor leadership by the mayor, governor and the Federal Administration, namely FEMA.

So once again Mississippi was largely ignored by the Feds, the media and now is not even mentioned.

Why is everybody so ready to bash President Bush and the federal Government. When is the Governor of LA and the Mayor of NO going to be held responsible for their lack of action to prevent some of the problems. No one is willing to hold the City of New Orleans responsible for misusing money from the FEDERAL Government money to repair and maintain the levees. I live in Arkansas and we had a town totally destroyed by storms earlier this year. We just helped the town pick up the pieces. It was a poor town, where was the out cry for them. We have also spent millions of dollars with Katrina victims, that we probabily will not be reimbursed. It came out of our pockets. Also, why do we continue to let people of authority continue the lie that the levee was "blown up." Mr. Williams did not make his guest say that idea was false, he let him get away with saying it happened in the past. That is what keeps the bad feelings alive. I think that is somewhat inresponsible of people with a voice to continue the negative words to promote a political agenda.

Brian Williams, you are the voice for Hurricane Katrina victims. You are also the voice of citizens angered by the governments negligence. You are The Voice of America.

Dear Mr. Williams
Just a quick question. You are to good of a reporter not to ask the hard questions. Somewhere in all these blogs it was stated "Follow the Money" This made me start thinking. Is it possible NBC higher up's will not let you do this? What ever your able to get by them we will take. We need to know the truth and thank you for all your hard work.

Being from Africa, I thought I've seen my share of suffering and misery of fellow humans to the point of making my heart stoic. But the show on Monday night left me in tears as my heart went out to the people that suffered. That even in the 'greatest' country on earth, human life is not always equal just broke my heart.

Will the special be available on DVD?

During your broadcast last night, you were standing in front of a house in the process of being rebuilt at ground level. Why is the Federal Flood Program (or any insurance or mortgage company) allowing these homes to be rebuilt without being elevated? They are obviously all in a flood zone.

Brian, I watched your update last night on New Orleans' condition since Katrina. I wanted to change chanels. Find a sitcom. But I couldn't. No matter how difficult it was to watch, it paled in comparison to those who lived through it. And anyone who thinks you should "move on" has little appreciation for the fact that we are all in jeopardy of the same fate should such a disaster happen again. Of course, I happend to be white and live in California, so maybe I'll do better. Isn't that a sad commentary on such a great nation?

I am not trying to take anything away from New Orleans because that was the epicenter of Katrina's aftermath. However, it is important to remember that other areas in the Gulf Coast region, such as Biloxi, Miss. were hit just as hard. Coverage of areas that are recovering, in addition to New Orleans, would remind Americans how far-reaching this disaster spread.

Thank you for this! If only all newscasters had such a sense of humor and a wit for the pen (or keyboard, in this case).

Comments for this entry have been closed

TRACKBACKS

Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do not appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d834b17b7e53ef