Displaced Gambit Weekly editor Michael Tisserand this week launched a series of weekly columns available to all AAN-member papers that will focus on the evacuee experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Over at least the next 10 weeks, Tisserand will build on his article “Submerged,” written two days after the storm and made available to AAN members through AltWeeklies.com. His work will combine first-person narrative and original reporting on the new realities of life for the city’s refugees. The first installment, “City of the Dead,” travels from children-focused relief efforts in a Lafayette, La., park to a Baton Rouge staging area for first responders. A phone call to a friend still inside the city of New Orleans provides the column’s surreal centerpiece.
“I want to hear the voices of my scattered city as I try to find my own answers,” says Tisserand, who will base his operations from the town of Carencro, La., roughly 200 miles from his New Orleans home. “Although the voice of these pieces will be personal, this is going to be a heavily reported column seeking to give specific voice to the general evacuee population.”
Tisserand plans to cover post-Katrina events as they unfold, from shelter and relief experiences to residents’ preparations for their eventual return to the city.
In what AAN executive director Richard Karpel calls “an unusual and unprecedented project,” Tisserand’s 2,000-word columns will be available free of charge each Monday to member papers for use in their pages or on their Web sites. The columns also will be featured on AltWeeklies.com.
“One of the Editorial Committee’s missions is to help members share stories, and there’s no more important story right now than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” writes committee chair Patty Calhoun via email. “We think Tisserand’s columns will be a powerful, and important, chronicle of this extraordinary time.”
As Tisserand reports on what is happening around — and to — his family and friends, the award-winning author and journalist will position AAN on the front lines of this developing story. “We think it has significant potential to give AAN and its members wider exposure and represents a great opportunity to demonstrate what alternative weeklies do best,” Karpel says. “We have absolute faith in Tisserand’s ability to produce compelling journalism that will have a real impact.”
Tisserand plans to continue his series through Mardi Gras; AAN has committed to making the first ten columns available to its members, and has an option to pick up the remainder of the series.
Shala Carlson, Tisserand’s former managing editor at Gambit, will oversee the editing of the weekly column in her new position as AAN’s assistant editor. Carlson is scheduled to begin working at AAN this Thursday.
Tisserand has served as editor of Gambit Weekly since 1998. Prior to that job, he wrote the book “The Kingdom of Zydeco” (Arcade Publishing, 1998), which received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.