Where do reporters stay and what do they eat when they are covering a natural disaster abroad?
January 15, 2010 10:51 AM   Subscribe

How is Anderson Cooper getting his three square meals a day in Haiti?

The current shortages of supplies like food, water and shelter in Haiti have me wondering about the logistics involved with sending a reporter to a disaster zone. There are also producers, cameramen, etc to worry about. Where do they stay? Do they bring their own food on their back?

A secondary question is, what about their equipment? How do they keep it powered up when there are electricity shortages?

First hand knowledge would be incredibly interesting, but any info is helpful! Thanks.
posted by timpanogos to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
They fly everything in.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on January 15, 2010

They bring it with them... much like the aid workers are coming in.
posted by kimdog at 10:55 AM on January 15, 2010

Best answer: MRE's/camping-style prepared foods, generators/solar panels, and shipped in fuel. There's a lot of money spent on shipping in ancillary supplies for that sort of deployment. Chartered flights/boats, etc. There are folks in a major news organization with just this sort of job. I work in the industry, and worked in the past with those cable news folks, and the amount of logistics involved is stupifying at first glance.
posted by pupdog at 11:00 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm curious about this too - could the folks who are just guessing indicate that, and the folks who are in the know say so? McDonald's? I can't tell if you're joking or not. If not, how are the McDonald's getting their hamburgers?

FWIW, an NPR reporter indicated that he had come in on a truck convoy from the Dominican Republic. I'd guess he brought most everything he'd need on the trucks. But I don't know.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:01 AM on January 15, 2010

Best answer: As a newspaper reporter, I helped cover the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. After flying into Houston, we rented an SUV and loaded it with plastic cans of gasoline, Cliff bars and military MREs before heading into the affected areas. We slept, ate and worked in the car for the duration of the project, and charged our computers with a converter in the car's lighter. We were prepared to give food away if necessary, but it never came to that. Obvs. this was a much smaller logistical challenge than Haiti, but I imagine it pretty much works the same wherever.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Some folks have the reporter's equivalent of a 'bug-out' bag - batteries, food, tp, etc.- enough for a coupel days- but they're expecting to meet up with supplies there most of the time. A single reporter may come in on a truck convoy, but his producer is probably riding in a land rover/hummer/box truck with supplies at the back.
posted by pupdog at 11:08 AM on January 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks pupdog and lo-carb, that is what I had some inkling of but yes, the amount of logistics it must take to navigate through such uncertain conditions does seem insurmountable.

So it's pretty much figured that the reporters will leave after the newscycle and their supplies run low?? (For the networks smaller than CNN with fewer resources, that is)

Follow up (not intending to derail): For the support staff, do assistants go, PA's, security personnel, etc?? How do they get through the massive bottleneck of aid workers and military??
posted by timpanogos at 11:10 AM on January 15, 2010

Usually at first only a few folks get through, like the MC said, a couple people in an SUV - whoever can get close on whatever the first flight is available. If local help can be sourced, it is. If a semi needs to be driven to NO from Memphis or whatever, it is, but the first thought is to get a face on the ground, and then meet them later with everything else.
posted by pupdog at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2010

I've worked and lived in different countries in the third world with various conditions both from disasters and war. Regardless of how much they truck/fly in, in every country there are always "fixers" who exists to ease things along and at the very least, scrounge for supplies.
posted by damiano99 at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can I pop in with another logistics question? Where are people like Anderson Cooper going to the bathroom? Where are the rest of the residents of PaP going to the bathroom? I'm assuming they are just going in the street.
posted by billysumday at 12:08 PM on January 15, 2010

The CNN and Fox crews currently in Haiti have hotels outside the leveled city, but others have slept in the airport or in tents. CNN has something like 50 people in-country, Fox around 25, and I'd assume many of those are tasked with logistics and security duties.

As for power, everything used for ENG work is battery powered, and you carry extra batteries with you, recharging wherever you can get power. Some crews are getting power from car batteries. I'm a sound guy, and everything in my kit is 12V and with a battery distribution system it would be very easy to use a car battery if the need arose.
posted by jjb at 12:16 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was watching one live report where the reporter mentioned that his camera man was powering his camera off of a car battery that he had strapped to his back.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2010

These days, you can just buy logistics and security capabilities from several types of contracting companies. You might even recognize the names. Hallburton. Blackwater. KBR. Erinyes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2010

more on fixers, from the blue. as damiano99 mentions.
posted by whatzit at 4:45 PM on January 15, 2010

Best answer: As it happens, CNN actually has a blog more or less about this -- In the Field.

An entry about Typhoon Ketsana^:

As our plane glided in over the city I could see the ribbons of light along the roads, but in between, there was dark emptiness. The entire city was blacked-out. Only a few buildings had backup generators. It made live television broadcasts very, very tricky. We had our own portable generator but could bring gasoline on a plane, and now the queue for fuel was two to three hours at the local gas station.

We managed to get a few live shots in the bag before finally our batteries died. Then like the residents of Padang, we too were feeling our way through the night. We found a half-built hotel, which had been slightly damaged. The owner was reluctant to let us stay inside because of the risk of aftershocks, ¬so we instead caught a couple of hours sleep in his bus in the parking lot.

Or in China following the earthquake^:

All the roads are blocked because of landslides. After begging and pleading with Chinese officials, even going to the airport where the helicopters were taking off from and flashing our permit, we were told no.

But in Beichuan, downstream from the quake lake, we heard there was actually another way in.

"Oh no. It is too tough," locals told us.The Chinese military had cut a path up over several mountaintops, just in case the helicopters could not fly due to bad weather. We all agreed, if we could make it, the hike would be worth it. We loaded up our gear: equipment to broadcast live, some water and food.

Thankfully, the military had placed little red flags on trees to guide the way.

It was too tough. It ended up being a six-hour trek, almost all of it straight up.

Soaked in sweat, we scrambled up narrow paths, many split with huge cuts from the quake; crawling over rubble from landslides; passing through small villages where homes were completely flattened. There was no sign of life.

We finally got to the top with a clear view, helicopters flying below us. We had just ten minutes to set up our kit to broadcast live.

Farhad, our cameraman, captured the amazing pictures from above the backhoes and bulldozers creating a new river, where the water will eventually flow in a controlled way.

We got as many pictures as we could but daylight was running out. We found a good spot to camp away from any landslides. We made a small fire and slept in the open - a few aftershocks overnight but nothing huge. At sunrise we stumbled down.

posted by dhartung at 6:44 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I stayed in Haiti for a week in April 2009 and ate quite heartily the whole time (despite the fact that I am a vegan). I realize that electricity is nearly non-existent at this point, but the house cook did prepare a great deal of our meals over a cauldron situated over a fire, also the oven was utilized heavily. I do believe there was a stove in the food preparation area, but I am under the impression that it was not electric, but gas powered. Produce and carbohydrates are somewhat readily available in the country (well pre-hurricane, not so sure now), meat was a tad scarcer, but they do have livestock and my companions surely ate their fill of meat and fish. I assume similar fare is being offered to Anderson Cooper if it's possible, if not, then he's probably consuming whatever is being transported for him . . .
posted by TwiceTheRice at 7:05 PM on January 15, 2010

TwiceTheRice, your post seems to make a stunning assumption that food distribution is still intact in a country ruined by earthquakes.

"They can just eat vegetables cooked over a fire, with meat & fish" isn't realistic.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2010

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