BOB GARFIELD: Last year, as Isabel, the last hurricane with an "I" name, bore down on the East Coast, I velcro'd up my trusty windbreaker and headed out to try my own hand at the fine art of storm reportage.
BOB GARFIELD: [SHOUTING] I'm standing here on the deck of my home in Virginia, being buffeted by the rain and wind of hurricane Isabel. I'm here because I live here, but it's an image that you're probably not unfamiliar with these past few days. [MONTAGE OF CLIPS]
MAN: Yeah, you battened down to something right now? [STRONG WIND BLOWING]
WOMMAN: Yes, I'm-- I'm hanging on to a planter, and that's the only reason that I'm not blowing away. I don't know if you can see this.... [STRONG WIND BLOWING]
MAN: ...top back there-- where our, our car was being moved in reverse without -- against our will, just because of the sheer force of the winds. We're obviously getting a lot of.... [STRONG WIND BLOWING]
MAN: Yeah, we're-- we're here. We're up against a generator. I think my buddy, Mike, took a-- I think my buddy Mike took a tumble-- [STRONG WIND BLOWING] I can just, I can just hear the folks at home saying, you know, they got what they deserved.
BOB GARFIELD: [SHOUTING] Not an unreasonable reaction, but-- they might also wonder: whoever sent them?! Larry Silbermann is one such. He's the news director of WTOC-TV in Savannah, Georgia. We spoke to him just as Isabel was working up a head of steam.
BOB GARFIELD: Larry, welcome to On the Media.
LARRY SILBERMANN: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Who do you have on the scene where the storm is making landfall?
LARRY SILBERMANN: Currently I have one of our primary anchors, Mike Manhattan, a photographer and two engineers with our satellite truck.
BOB GARFIELD: Within the last few days it's been quite clear that Savannah was going to be spared. How exactly will the people of Savannah be served by having Mike Manhattan on the scene at a hurricane that will never come near them? What's to be gained?
LARRY SILBERMANN: There's always lessons to be gained. You know, we're documenting history. You know, "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." For a city like Savannah that's a coastal community, and every year we're facing threats of hurricanes --then any time we can bring that closer to our viewers, so they can see how other hurricanes are creating damage, destruction, havoc on a region, then it gives everyone here the greater appreciation for what they need to do next time.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Let me ask you an obnoxious question. It's obnoxious, but it's also, I think, the essence of the thing. If Mike and the crew come back, and you've had the only Savannah coverage live from the center of the storm, and they have an exciting time, and they get the news, I guess it'll be high-fives all around. But if their truck is hit by a fallen tree, or if they get caught in a flash flood and drown, or something else horrible happens to them, then what are you left with?
LARRY SILBERMANN: You know, I don't know that my feelings would change. If something tragic or horrible happened, you know, I'd look at it and, and go-- what did we do wrong - and move on. And you know, each time you learn and become smarter about it. I feel comfortable that I'm not putting someone at great, great risk here. You know we, we have a public service to, to cover news when and where it happens, and--you know, that's what we do, and it - we're a voluntary army. I mean, no one was drafted in and forced to do anything. People do what they do in this business cause they love what they do.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Well, of course, I wish Mike and the crew well, and thank you very much for joining us.
LARRY SILBERMANN: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Larry Silbermann is news director at WTOC-TV in Savannah. We spoke last year a day before Hurricane Isabel made its landfall. You'll be happy to know that Mike Manhattan and his crew made it home safely.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, should reporters be political? Can we stop them? And the network that time forgot.
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media, from NPR. [FUNDING CREDITS]