The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

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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 scene of the crime

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Brian speaks to Gentilly resident Christopher Saucedo on Sunday. Photo by Subrata De, NBC News.

We arrived back in New Orleans on Sunday. If you think this city isn't nervous about hurricane season, consider this: a local police offer told me he purchased an automatic weapon and a thousand rounds of ammunition  yesterday -- when Ernesto's path and size were both uncertain -- because, as he put it, "I'm not going through another hurricane in this city with just my sidearm."

If you think these new airline security regulations aren't having an effect on citizens, consider this: after arriving in Louis Armstrong International Airport here in New Orleans yesterday, I purchased a bottle of water at an airport newsstand. The saleswoman told me she would have to pour it into a large Styrofoam cup (she pointed to a massive stack of cups behind her) if I still wanted to purchase it -- because "we can't have plastic bottles in the terminal." Upon hearing this, the woman in line behind me, perhaps knowing my line of work, said, "Can anyone explain to me, given our history and who we are, how we arrived at this point?"
                                             
In an instant, I completely understood what she was saying. We won World War II. This is the United States. How has it come to this? How did this happen? Who is going to use my bottle of Aquafina -- and how -- to act against this magnificent country of ours?

Both of these stories, separated by about 15 minutes after our arrival here yesterday, speak to the twin national traumas we have been through -- and that we are about to examine via twin anniversaries: the one-year observance of Katrina and its aftermath, and the 5-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

This visit, more than any over the past 12 months, feels strange. Huge portions of the city are unchanged. Renewal is evident but episodic and spotty. Sunday we found a car in the massive multi-level parking garage at the Superdome -- that has been there, locked and abandoned, for the past year. It is the very least of this city's worries. But it is a perfect example of the scope of the problem. How will anyone ever find the owner? Who will remove it? What becomes of it?
                                                            
Everything here is a landmark of some sort, dating back to a year ago. Yesterday we drove by the stretch of sidewalk where we came across a body, baking in the sun, in the shadow of the Superdome a year ago... not the first we had seen, certainly not the last -- this one was memorable because of the children on bikes who had stopped to look it over.
                                                          
While shooting videotape in the city yesterday afternoon, we smelled, while standing in one specific spot -- that smell -- the distinct odor of death and decay, the one that is instantly recognizable to those who've traveled to war zones, crime scenes or natural disasters. 

Last evening, two channels on the hotel cable system were running 9/11 anniversary programming. Three of them had Katrina-related programming of some sort. The in-house channel now runs, on a repeating loop, a guide to the 1-5 hurricane rating scale, and instructions on how to act if warnings are posted.
                                          
The sheer drapes were pulled closed when I checked into my room, and I quickly discovered why: all four panes of floor-to-ceiling glass are clouded... full of water vapor... as are so many of the windows in our otherwise-fine hotel. It's a metaphor, really, for the city outside those windows: it's functioning, even clean in spots -- but just behind a sheer curtain there is still real hurt and great damage.

Sunday night on one of the array of specials on Katrina, former FEMA Director Michael Brown said flatly, "We failed in so many ways, it's hard to take an accounting of all of them." He's right, and you can still see the results from where I'm sitting as I write this.
                            
This week, beginning this evening, we will take stock. And tonight, at 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 Central, we will remember the first five days of Katrina. It is a documentary special that aired once, on the Sundance Channel, on October 27th of last year. It is raw and emotional and uncommonly first-person. I asked NBC to air it on the network and they agreed. We will devote the balance of the hour to those we met during Katrina and the issues it raised. Tomorrow I will talk to President Bush here in New Orleans, just as I imagine I might in New York, on the next awful anniversary we are due to cover in September. We will also report on all the souls lost in yesterday's commuter jet crash in Kentucky. Through it all, life goes on -- in between tragedies -- and we'll cover all of it when we join you from New Orleans tonight.

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

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COMMENTS

Thank goodness Mr. Williams and most of the respondents have some humanity, because a few of the respondents do not seem to. For the people who believe N.O. should not be rebuilt until paperwork is complete or that the city is something to be ashamed of because there are poor people who have taken government assistance or because it was known as "Sin City" or has a bad connection to ancient history, where is your humanity? You are talking about other human beings, about children who had no choice in where they were born, and--frankly--about any city in this country. Most cities have an "unseemly" side somewhere, officials who don't do as they should, and people who sponge off of the government. But what we forget is that in those same cities--and in New Orleans--there are also children, elderly people, many hard-working people, the handicapped, and people who are struggling temporarily but are trying to pull themselves up. We have travelled to New Orleans and we do it because we love the music, the food, the art, the natural surroundings, the architecture, and the people. As with most places, New Orleans has some problems, both before and since the hurricane. But it is not, throughout, the Sodom and Gommorrah most people who have never been there believe it to be.

Brian I appreciate the coverage on Katrina. I am wondering why Nagin got re-elected. Why does it seem that no one is holding him responsible for the lack of response. Was it not Nagin that was offered train and bus transportation and refused it prior to Katrina hitting. Is it not Nagin and the governor reponsible for taking care of local goverment. If he knows his city as he claims then why was he not 100%active in getting the people who were poor and had no transportation out of the city to safety. I think I was watching the same coverage on the television that they were and they had time to get out. And these same people re-elected him? People can blame Bush and FEMA but I think the blame should first go to local goverment. Why have they not been held accountable for any of this? Can you tell us how we can help make their lives better?

Scene of the crime? Crime against people? Crime against property? Crime against humanity? Of course. What perplexes is that; law does not acknowledge ignorance nor incompetance, yet those responsible, at or near the top of the food chain, get away with doing just that. Time and time again.

The people of New Orleans deserve Mayor Negin. What a hoot!

Interesting comment...how the government let the people of New Orleans down. Yeah right, some of those same people have been munching off the government for decades but nobody seems to say anything about that. How about, get off her fanny and become self sufficent like the rest of us. I know people who lived in New Orleans and the stories they tell. Get an education, get a job and quit expecting the gov't to take care of you.

Brian Williams shame on yourself for making Katrina let's bash the Republicans and the Bushs campagne.
Why don't you talk to the people of Buloxi and Gulfport,
Miss. My family was there in April doing mission work and maybe you should try talking to people that are not making this a political move or using the race blame game.
SHAME ON ALL of you media millionairs. Put your money where your mics are. Why as Americans, people can not seem to help themselves.

Brian
You and your show is our choice of news, NBC is my choice of stations. My questions is why do we have to listen to all the same old known comments about Katrina every day?

Thank you for your continued coverage of the recovery process in New Orleans. I join with thousands of residents along the Gulf Coast who are so thankful for everyone around the nation for giving time, money, thoughts, and prayers for the Gulf Coast over the last year, and I am hopeful that people will continue in their generosity in this long recovery if they truly know of the magnitude of the destruction in the Gulf states. Your coverage of the disaster here has helped raise awareness and led people to take action to help- and that generosity is something that everyone must remember in a time when we mourn and reflect on the great losses suffered.

I think of all the coverage you have had- and to this day the one image that stands out the strongest still is the segment you ran during the first week of events following the storm with Campbell Brown focusing special attention on the children affected by the storm. I think of the little girl saying she just wanted to go home, of Charles Evans relaying the appalling government response to the disaster into the camera with his Sponge bob t-shirt on, the clip of the three dehydrated babies sitting on their mother’s lap in a dazed state- the most innocent of our community all suffering. On this anniversary, I keep the children throughout the gulf coast in my thoughts and prayers and hope that they have re-established some sense of normalcy, some feeling of home.

A home- not just the physical structure in which you live, but more so the culture, the community, the figures that surround the neighborhood, the sense of normalcy, the sense of routine- all of the things that make a place home for someone. To those who do not understand the despair of the region- think of this concept of the home, and remember there are thousands of people who have had that home ripped away from them, and who are desperately trying to get back to some sense of home knowing that it will take years. It will not be the same- but if the government can help assist with basic infrastructure (schools, hospitals, water, electricity) there are thousands of people in the gulf coast region that have the heart and determination to move forward and will do so.

Thank you for telling New Orleans’ story- and please keep telling it for years to come. There is no place like New Orleans. There is no place like home.

Best regards.

Brian,

Thank you for so many things that have already been echoed here from comments to this post. Your first-person perspective on our country is something that has been lacking in major television news, and I'm glad you're bringing it back.

Thank you also for embracing the internet as a tool to really get into your head and see how you think. The Daily Nightly (and the Early Nightly) provide insight to the question we're always asking-- "what's he thinking?"

I'm sure Tom is glad you filled his shoes up rather well.

Stay safe.

It is very interesting that Katrina occurred just in time to ruin the Degradation Sunday plans made by the degenerates in New Orleans, a city that produced a Saint Joan in France. If New Orleans rises from the disaster as a new city, I hope its morals also arise but leave behind the filth that was aptly called Sin City, not one of which our nation should be proud!

Dear Mr. Williams, thank you for your continueing coverage of New Orleans and your portrayal of how important New Orleans is and how much it is still suffering. During evacuation, everyday after going to school in a pizza hut I would tune in, and even now that I have returned, I still watch NBC Nightly News every night, and sometimes see familiar faces. Keep up the good work.

I thought you may find these two pdf reports and recaps helpful on post-Katrina Federal spending:
http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2006/8/26/234630/888/52#52

Best Regards

Thank you Brian, you rock! Let's not forget all the people that USED to live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast also.

Dear Brian, I am stocked to read the reality of the situation in New Oreleans -- dead bodies still found unburied a year later. It just goes to show that American is not ready for a country-wide disaster (GOD FORBID). Could you imagine what the response would be then? God help us!

Dear Mr. Williams:
I switched to NBC News after a many years of being CBS News viewer because of your coverage during Katrina. You lived up to your marketing of being just an average American who hadn"t forgotten where he came from. You didn't shy away from covering the ugly truth of the situaion and asking those in power uncomfortable questions. Katrina exposed the poverty and racism still very present in America but missing in any serious coverage in our media for many years. I heard a lot of talk about how these issues could no longer be ignored in our national public discourse. (in which the main stream media plays a major role) Unfortunately, I haven't noticed much change. Today I saw a report on Democray Now about the Lafitte Public Housing Project in New Orleans, This low income housing project was not damaged by the flooding but has been boarded shut and its residents not allowed to return, Apparently it lies between the business district and the French Quarter. Why would people not be allowed to return to apparently undamaged low income housing? Is it because the land it sits on is coveted by more wealthy and connected business and investment interests? This just reaffirms my earlier suspicions that political and business interests are glad poor and black residents are no longer in the city and they are going to make sure they can"t come back. This seems like a story that could be followed up on and expanded to explore those issues we were all going to start paying attention to. How about it Mr. Williams?

Brian Williams detached from the New York set, sleeves rolled up, being the anchor in the element – this has become Nightly News at its best.

Brian -- Thank you for all your coverage of Hurricane Katrina or "the storm" as we call it here in Mississippi. We appreciate your keeping this before all Americans. New Orleans has certainly got the lion's share of coverage but it is nice to occasionally see coverage of the devastation done by the storm itself -- The Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Louisiana lowlands. New Orleans as most of us down here know was a victim of 100 years of bad politics.
Mississippi has gotten alot of federal help because we have a governor who knows people. Unfortunately much of that money has yet to be distributed to the thousands of families still living in 7' x 12' campers. The suicide rate in Mississippi has tripled.
Casinos are rebuilding but there is no affordable housing for low wage workers. So it will indeed be years before our coast is healed.
Please continue to keep all of us in the news and don't forget the victims of Rita and Wilma. Hopefully we can get through this hurricane season with minimal damage, but know that every time something brews in the gulf we will be praying for a miracle.
Keep up the good work. Thanks.

Dear Brian: I watch your broadcast every night judiciously. I only get the three major network stations on television and use my "rabbit ear" antennaes, since I can't afford cable or dish. The NBC station comes in the clearest, so I tend to watch it most of the time. I have watched you from the beginning when you became the news anchor and I must say you consistantly produce great newsworthy coverage of important events that affect most Americans in someway. Keep up your projection of honesty and the love of humanity in your work. I do enjoy a hint of a smile at your signing off for the evening news broadcast. That gives me a ray of hope that I'll be around to watch you again tomorrow. Being a U.S. Navy Veteran Hospital Corpsman from the Persian Gulf War, I noticed a possible deviated septum (or is it the camera angle?) It might be interesting to share that with your audience (or why you prefer not to do so.) Regardless, you do not have mannerisms that are "stiff" or "robotic", but are very likeable and heartfelt. I'll stay tuned to NBC Nightly News.

Brian, I enjoy your show nightly. My decision on picking which nightly show I will watch come September (ABC, CBS, NBC) will be determined by how informative and courageous the anchor is regarding key stories and interviewing our leaders. Please ask questions we NEED and DEMAND the answers to -- I watched President Bush on Larry King Live and he was so dismissive of the questions or trivialized them.
I will be tuning in tomorrow night to see your interview with him about Katrina -- I'm not tuning in to see some NBC "exclusive" but to LISTEN to the leader of my country. I hope others will to.

Brian, I am 2003 Grad of Villanova and you spoke at my graduation. You are without a doubt my favorite jsut so you know;) I am so grateful that it is you telling this story tonight.
I am originally from New Orleans and currently live in Philadelphia. I have a LARGE extended family and none of them actually live in the city of New Orleans but in Mandeville, Metairie, Kenner, Covington, HArvey, Grande Isle, Harahan, and Thibideaux, Bay St Louis, and Picayune. EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of my family, Irish, Welsh, English, French, and Spanish by heritage, a little Acadian somewhere back in the family tree. We range across the board in class but for the most part are just good people. We care about each other and our neighbors and just are good people. EVERY SINGLE MEMBER from my large extended family still feels a deep hurt by this storm and by the way that the country perceives that the storm caused hurt to one city filled with poor people who couldn't leave. The storm devasted an entire REGION of the country not just the city of NewOrleans. People of the greater neworleans area are white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Christian, Jewish, whatever they are, they are anxious to make life better, to move out of trailers whether FEMA provided or provided by their company. My Memere is tired of going to funerals because the mental stress of the storm has been too much for the elderly in NewOrleans. My other Grandma had a stroke after being evacuated twice (Katrina and Rita) and passed away this spring. My attorney cousin was unable to qualify for a trailer because she and her husband rented in the WEst End so when their house and their belongings were destroyed, they received nothing. They now live in a camper in my aunt's backyard in Covington. Another cousin lost everything, EVERYTHING in BayStLouis except his boat which he then had my aunt and uncle drive him gas for, so he could take his boat around bayStLouis and help his neighbors. I could tell you what happened to each member but I won't. I will just say that everyone is okay now and is moving on, cleaning up, and making like better. They manage to still see humor and irony in their respective situations.
It is so so so RARE that I meet anyone in the northeast who even begins to understand the details and intricacies of New Orleans and the GulfCoast. The history, the racial tensions, the politics, the schools systems, that the beauty and truth of New Orleans is not really found on Bourbon Street (althoguh some fun can be found there) but in the fact that you look east over the Mississippi from the Moonwalk and you are looking at the West Bank of the river, that you can go to the dancehall in the swamp at the zoo to hear some fantastic zydeco, it's in Christmas in the OAks at City Park, it's in King Cakes, Muffellatas, the D-Day Museum, Commander's Palace, Camelia Grille, Tipitinas, it's is the cherry snowballs with condensed milk, it's in going out on your uncle's shrimp boat at dusk, watching the sunset on the bayou and coming in at sunrise, exhausted, with hundreds of pounds of shrimp. It's taking a walk on the levee with your memere. It's crawfish boils and shrimp molds, having lunch at Sidmor's. It's in playing Booray with your Mom's quarters and taking more risks cause it isn't your money. It's water skiing and tubing on the Tchefuncte knowing that there are snakes and alligators but you more scared by the speed at which your cousin is driving the boat. The beauty is going with your Dad so he can fill in for a friend playing music at some random roadhouse in Gramercy (Confederate and harley flags EVERYWHERE) one day but going with your Dad to his school where he teaches in the ninth ward the next day, stopping at Gene's for a roast beef PoBoy on the way (it's the big pink building you can't miss it) and even though we are the only blonde haired, green eyed people for blocks, there is no fear, no "race issue" cause this is home.
New ORleans is my home, my people. It's not that they CAN'T live somewhere else in the country, it's that New Orleans is home. Why would you want to live anywhere other than your home? I hope that you and your crew are able to capture true beauty of my people and my home. Thank you for telling their stories. I will be watching!

What do you mean, back at the scene of the crime? Are you talking about the looting or are you, as I thnk you are, trying to imply that the President is guilty of some crime in this matter. If so why not give credit for how well he has fixed the hurricane problem of 06.

Brian please don"t forget our other hurricane victims from Rita.Cameron parish is wiped out,but no news coverage from there.Help us too.

Brian,

When you interview Bush tomorrow, why don't you ask him the real question - how does he sleep at night knowing he is largely responsible for all the fear, unnescessary deaths, destruction and hatred for America he has inflicted on America?

Chris Eldridge, with all his instructions about how a house should be built, should live in a communist society where everyone would definitely be the same. I think it is so sad that people have so many ideas about how other people should live their lives. I believe many people don't think anything is important unless that thing has actually happened to them (as in, I didn't get hit by a hurricane, so how bad can it be?)

Thank you, again, for your concise and honest coverage. You have brought a little of Peter Jennings to NBC and it is and has been very refreshing.

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