Bookseller Relief Fund and BookPeople Book Drive

Booksellers from across the country are pitching in to help the Hurricane Katrina evacuees. We have two efforts to tell you about at press time: The American Booksellers Association has created a Bookseller Relief Fund to assist booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions to the fund will be accepted, and ABA is seeding the relief fund with an opening donation of $25,000. Checks should be made payable to Bookseller Relief Fund and sent to ABA's office at 200 White Plains Road, Tarrytown, NY 10591. Please write "Bookseller Relief" on the outside of the envelope. Several stores from around the country have also indicated their willingness to house and/or employ booksellers whose stores are unlikely to be able to reopen anytime soon. For a list of offers go to the link below. The page also includes updates on the status of many affected booksellers. Anyone willing to take in or to employ a displaced bookseller is asked to contact ABA's director of special projects, David Walker, at (800) 637-0037, ext. 6612 or davidw@bookweb.org. ******* PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY 2005 "Best Bookseller in the USA" award winner, BookPeople, has "thousands of new books already packed in boxes, waiting to be brought to shelters," says Steve Bercu, CEO of the Austin, TX bookstore. "We will also be starting a book drive as soon as we are told where to take the books so they can be distributed to shelters." Shelters in Texas and across the country are still in need of many things, including clothing, books, and toys for children, but because they have already received so many items, distribution points have been overwhelmed. Donated items cannot be brought directly to any shelter. "We will be sending more children's books than adult books," says Bercu, "since shelters have indicated their greatest need is for kid's books." Check www.BookPeople.com for further updates on the book drive and how to get involved.

Visit ABA's Bookseller Relief Fund page

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Feature

Courageous Reporters Become Hurricane's First Responders

Today's reporting will become tomorrow's books
As we go to press for this issue, we’re all glued to our televisions, watching ‘round-the-clock coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As I write this, it’s Tuesday night, September 6, 2005, and I’m channel surfing once more. It’s very late. I really should be in bed. But, as I’ve done every day and every night for the past week, I’m still watching. The TV has been on in my office at home while I do phone interviews, while I read, while I write, while I edit, while I eat. I crank up the volume so I can still hear it from the bathroom.

A little excessive, perhaps? Nah, not at all. Like most writers, I’m a news junkie even under the most normal circumstances. And, as we all know, these are not normal circumstances. Even for a hurricane, this is far from normal. I know from firsthand experience. I used to live in South Florida.

We’ve all heard the term “first responders” many times in the four years since 9/11 made the phrase famous. The first professionals to respond to a crisis are typically considered to be police, firefighters, medical personnel, and the like. But, as we’ve seen in previous crises around the globe, and now with the Katrina aftermath, print and broadcast journalists are often first responders, as well.

Traditionally, reporters have been instructed never to cross the line between reporting and participating in an event. And when they do cross the line, they certainly wouldn’t want to make that public. When someone’s health, safety, or life is in danger, however, all bets are off. Reporters help out. But, never before have we seen this so dramatically, and so often, as we have since Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Time after time, television reporters, producers, and print journalists have not only been the “first responders” in a particular location, they’ve been the only responders, sometimes for hours or days.

Their impassioned pleas have alerted the official first responders, as well as the public, to the horrendous conditions and dire needs of Hurricane Katrina’s victims.

Reporters have handed out whatever water and food they’ve had with them. They have rescued people from flood waters, buildings, and overpasses. They have even taken in pets that evacuees weren’t allowed to take with them on buses and planes out of New Orleans, and reunited them with their loving owners.

They have literally saved thousands of lives simply by their reporting.

In this capacity, they have been the best advocates for the needs of those stranded in the hell that not even a disaster movie could have imagined.

I think that this has been journalism’s finest hour.

For all the complaints we have about the media – and it’s been my job quite often in the past 25 years to catalogue those as a journalist, who, among other things, reports on the media – we must remember that when they’re at their best serving the public, they can move mountains, and save people and their puppies.

I’ve always known that I cannot do what hard news reporters do. I’m too squeamish. As I wrote in the Author’s Note that opened my book Voices of Truth, I chose to be a feature writer because the people and stories that live in the heads of hard news reporters are “gruesome, violent, bloody. That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire what those reporters do. It only means that I’m not the right one to do that.”

I’ve always been in awe of these reporters precisely because I know I can’t do what they do. And I know how hard it is for them to go on. Yet they do go on, often in the most dangerous and heartbreaking conditions.

Over the years, my friends and colleagues who are hard news reporters have astounded me not only with their talent, but with their strong stomachs and their courage. I’ve heard all of their behind-the-scenes tales, I’ve worried about them as they’ve ventured into dangerous situations, and I’ve been relieved when they’ve emerged, at least physically, unscathed. But I know the emotional price they pay for doing this work, day after day, year after year.

Pretty soon, Hurricane Katrina will make her way into bookstores. As you read this, editors are no doubt scrambling to line up publishing deals covering every aspect of this story. The reporting contained in these books will investigate, document, and analyze this disaster and the human suffering that followed, and will help us make sure that nothing like Katrina’s aftermath ever happens again.

* * * * * * * * * *

Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, essayist, and the author of Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Omni, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and The Miami Herald.

Ms. Diamond was a writer and performer on Pandemonium, the National Public Radio (NPR) satirical humor program, for its entire run in Miami and select markets nationwide from 1984-1998. As an editor, she works frequently with other authors and journalists on both fiction and non-fiction.


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