On August 10, 2011, the Associated Press (AP) issued a style guide for reporters when writing about September 11, 2001 and the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City. The reason was sound: to assist journalists in developing consistency in their reporting on the disaster that caused 2,752 deaths and changed national policy.
But on the tenth anniversary of the levee breach event, the media outlet did not issue a style guide on how to reference the most costly hurricane in US history which triggered levee failure causing 1,392 deaths and also changed national policy. For this reason, in March of 2022, Levees.org initiated a conversation with the Associated Press about issuing a style guide change.
The conversation was successful. On September 27, 2022, a new style guide for Hurricane Katrina was issued which can be accessed by all Associated Press reporters around the world.
Most noteworthy are these passages (italicized material is the AP’s):
The late August 2005 hurricane was the deadliest storm to strike the U.S. since 1928 with a death toll that far outweighs any other storm during the modern era of weather forecasting. As of 2022, it was also the costliest storm on record to strike the United States with an inflation-adjusted cost of $186 billion in 2022 dollars. Levee failure played a large part in the destruction in New Orleans, while storm surge was a key factor elsewhere….
… When writing about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, it is important to note that levee failures played a major role in the devastation in New Orleans. In some stories, that can be as simple as including a phrase about Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic levee failures and flooding. Some stories may require more detail.
Some basics: In New Orleans, flaws in the design and construction of the federally built levee system led to multiple levee breaches and catastrophic flooding….
“I know how important the AP Style Guide is to accurate journalism. The change is important for all survivors of the flooding event associated with Hurricane Katrina.”
––Susan Roesgen, an American television reporter who has worked in radio and television broadcasting for more than two decades
Levees.org would like to give a shout out to Gambit Magazine’s Clancy DuBos. At the 5th anniversary of the levee breach event, DuBos promised founder Sandy Rosenthal that he would issue a style guide to all writers for his popular local magazine decreeing that henceforth, the flooding during Hurricane Katrina shall be called the “federal flood.” That was March 2010. DuBos did make good on his promise.