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Radio station a New Orleans lifeline

News Director talks about coverage and personal, professional difficulties
/ Source: msnbc.com

With no electricity or reliable telephone service in New Orleans, thousands of people who have remained in the city have grown to depend on the radio as a source of information.

WWL-AM is the only station that has provided 24-hour news coverage since the storm hit. Dave Cohen, the news director for the station, joined MSNBC's Randy Meier to discuss his experiences, and how the station's role has changed through the storm and its aftermath.

"We're telling people now where they can get food and water, where they can go to get in touch with the Red Cross and get in touch with FEMA -- where they can get the information they need," Cohen explained. "We're helping people find one another, we have many people call and say they haven't seen their mother, they haven't seen their brother. They go over the radio and tell them 'I'm here, this is my phone number now,' and obviously we have seen a lot of people reunited."

"Up until a few days ago, we've been receiving calls from stranded people and helping them get in touch with authorities so they can be rescued. It's just a non-stop stream of news, information and a lot of testimonials, too, people telling their stories of what they went through," Cohen added.

He said that with Hurricane Rita making a line toward the Gulf of Mexico, everyone in the area is very aware of the potential danger.

"Absolutely, they're concerned about it. We've had teams of reporters all over the region, and from Plaquemines to St. Bernard, to Orleans to St. Tammany, to all the communities around New Orleans, everyone's telling us that they are ready to get out, they are ready to leave," he said.

Cohen added that he is hearing from shelters in Southwestern Louisiana about concerns that evacuees from Katrina may have to be evacuated again, should Rita approach that area of the state.

For himself and his employees, the work has been rewarding, but personally difficult.

"It's peaks and valleys for us too," he said. "We're trying to live through this. ... I've got to get home at some point. I've got to repair my roof, I've got to clean up my flood damage, I've got to pick up my fences, I've got to get my house back in order so that I can bring my family home at some point.

"I have days where I'm like 'Oh, my God, how am I going to do all of that.' I think that's what everybody's going through, it's peaks and valleys.  ... It's just a rollercoaster ride of emotions for us," Cohen said.

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