When disaster brought national attention to Texas, local journalists did the state proud.
Texas newspaper staffs told the stories of Hurricane Harvey’s terrible destruction while reflecting the resilience of their hometowns.
Harvey struck the Texas coast as a category 4 storm Aug. 25 near Rockport with destruction to several coastal areas. Harvey's center of circulation stalled over South Texas on Aug. 26 and then meandered slowly east into the Gulf of Mexico before making a final landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on Aug. 30. According to the National Weather Service, it was the slow movement from Aug. 26-30 that led to the catastrophic flooding in Houston and Southeast Texas. Damage spread further into East Texas as swollen rivers and creeks flooded their banks.
Within the 54 counties listed in Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration, there are more than 120 newspapers. Staffs of those newspapers, large and small, served their communities around the clock – sharing emergency reports and important news, reporting on destruction, delivering stories of rescues, devastation and narrow escapes, and helping in the aftermath by connecting their neighbors with information about where to find shelter and supplies.
Websites, online resources and social media played important roles in local coverage. Newspapers took down pay walls on their websites, allowing more people access to important information – not just for local readers but also for those who had left and were seeking information about their properties, evacuees looking for safe routes out of the area and worried families trying to find loved ones.
All the while, like the first responders caring for their neighbors, those reporting the news in their hometowns were often coping with losses of their own, both at home and at work. With no utilities and damaged facilities, some newspapers were unable to produce print editions during the storm.
Newspapers outside the South Texas area reported on aid and relief efforts as their own communities reached out to those in the coastal areas hardest hit by the hurricane’s landfall and in the Houston areas devastated by tropical storm flooding.
As efforts turn to rebuilding and restoring, Texas journalists still have their work cut out for them.
Local news coverage during the disaster drew praise from peers and newspaper industry observers across the country.
Here are links to a few of the stories about the work and courage of the Texas press: