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WWNO Announces New Coastal Reporting Team

Janet Wilson

WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio launches its “Coastal Desk” today — a local reporting team devoted to covering news and issues related to Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coastline. Southeast Louisiana — WWNO’s service area, centered on New Orleans — is vanishing under the waves faster than any coastal landscape in the world. Every hour Louisiana loses wetlands equivalent in size to a football field. Some coastal communities have already been erased from maps.

Continued loss of coastal lands threatens the security of nationally important oil and gas production and transportation facilities, highways and railroads, shipbuilding and industrial facilities. Wetlands losses will also seriously impact wildlife and fisheries, and will leave New Orleans and other communities only more vulnerable to hurricanes.

“With so much at stake for Louisiana and the nation, we felt that coastal news must be a priority for WWNO’s growing local news coverage,” said WWNO General Manager Paul Maassen. “Our audience wants and needs clear, reliable information about plans to restrain erosion, restore marshes, and protect communities from storms and rising seas.”

WWNO News Director Eve Troeh continued, “For south Louisianians, whether they live in small bayou communities or old New Orleans neighborhoods, coastal issues are increasingly at the forefront of daily life. Our approach to coastal news will reflect this, with frequent reports as news develops, as well as in-depth feature stories providing the background and analysis that public radio listeners expect.” The Coastal Desk will cover a broad range of topics, including coastal erosion, wetlands restoration plans and projects, hurricane protection, Mississippi River management, offshore oil and gas, wildlife and fisheries impacts, and effects on the economy and culture of coastal communities.

As the new Coastal Reporter, Jesse Hardman will draw on 15 years of worldwide experience in radio, video and print journalism. As a radio reporter he has reported for NPR, BBC, and CBC, and for such familiar programs as Marketplace, This American Life, Latino USA, and Living on Earth. He served as a daily news reporter and news magazine producer for WBEZ in Chicago. He has worked extensively in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and has reported on New Orleans for Time. At WWNO Jesse has been the creator and producer of The Listening Post, the station’s civic engagement project. He holds degrees from Kenyon College, Ohio, and Harvard University, Massachusetts.

News Coastal Producer Laine Kaplan-Levenson brings to her new role broad local experience in reporting, technical production, and editing of radio news and cultural projects for WWNO, especially in association with the online media organization NolaVie, for which she is managing editor. She also co-produces the local “Moth StorySLAM” and another live storytelling project, “Bring Your Own.” She recently produced a coastal series, “What to do with Bayou Bienvenue?” that examines alternative futures for a heavily damaged cypress swamp in New Orleans. Laine has a degree in Film and American Studies from Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

Cities and regions on every American coast are struggling to face the impact of rising seas. Experiences and issues in other regions, from New York to Miami, are of special interest for the Coastal Desk. Said News Director Troeh, “We have already heard from several public radio stations and other news organizations about their interest in collaborating on coverage of coastal issues. We look forward to examining what we can learn from other regions while we tell Louisiana’s coastal stories to the nation.”

WWNO’s Coastal Desk builds on reporting that the station initiated in 2013. Especially notable in the year’s coverage was “The Louisiana Coast: Last Call”, a fifteen-part series on coastal land loss causes, projections for the future, and approaches to coastal restoration. The series won a 2014 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding achievement in radio news.

Major support for WWNO’s Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, whose priorities include healthy and resilient communities of wildlife and people in the Mississippi River Basin, and sustainable resource management in ecologically rich ocean areas, including the Gulf of Mexico.

WWNO’s first funding for coastal news came through the generosity of the Kabacoff Family Foundation, whose trustees share our concern for the future of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana.

Additional generous support has come from a Greater New Orleans Foundation challenge grant, and from WWNO listeners who matched the Foundation’s grant. The Greater New Orleans Foundation has served the people of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana since 1983, working to create a resilient, sustainable, vibrant community in which individuals and families flourish and the special character of our region is preserved, celebrated, and supported.

WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio is the NPR member radio station for New Orleans and 13 parishes of southeast Louisiana, broadcasting news, music, and cultural programs on 89.9 FM and on KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area, with all content available at WWNO.org. WWNO’s trusted, thought-provoking news and lively cultural entertainment make it one of the top stations in metro New Orleans. WWNO is a public service of the University of New Orleans.

The University of New Orleans is a major research university in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. For more than 50 years, it has been one of the city’s foremost public resources, offering a diverse set of world-class, research-based programs, advancing shared knowledge and adding to the city’s industry, culture and economy.


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