Northwestern students report stories from New Orleans

October 25, 2010

Students from Northwestern University in Qatar reported on the  challenges facing the American city of New Orleans this summer, five  years after Hurricane Katrina struck the city.

The trip provided  an opportunity for students to hone their reporting skills and to report  on a complex story that changed a city its people.

“We were  very interested in exploring the real issues people were facing after  the hurricane,” said second-year journalism student Ola Diab, who  reported on the reconstruction of the Lower 9th ward and how  environmental housing is transforming the area. “I didn’t know how  people would react to us. But it went so well. Everybody was so  supportive,” Diab said.

Other students documented topics such as  the rebirth of the music and arts community and the lasting impact of  Qatar’s $100m donation to the city in the wake of the hurricane.

“Having  come to New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina you would expect  talks about the disaster to have settled down,” wrote second-year  student Shannon Farhoud in a blog post. But that simply isn’t the  case.

“The destruction Katrina caused is still very visible today,”  Farhoud wrote. “Abandoned homes are standing in the middle of a working,  partial rebuilt neighborhood, which means everyday the people of the  community … are reminded of what happen here.”

For the 12  students who participated, the trip provided an opportunity to build on  the reporting experience they’d gained in Doha during reporting classes  on Mirqab street.

“It has been great to see the excitement from  the students,” said professor Christopher Booker, who worked with the  students on reporting, shooting and editing video projects. “The Mirqab  street reporting class really prepared them for their experience in the  US, which just goes to show that our ‘learn by doing’ teaching method  really pays off,” he said.

In fact, for many of the students,  the trip to New Orleans went well beyond mere learning. “This trip for  me was a first step into the real world of journalism,” said Nazneen  Zahan, a second-year journalism student.

“We went to this whole  new place, found our sources, contacted them, met them and produced a  whole mini documentary. By the end of the trip we felt like real  journalists, not just students,” Zahan said.

You can see student work at