Barry McNamara  |  Published September 03, 2021

Nutting ’11 in Teeth of Storm

Alum helps New Orleans TV station with its live coverage of Hurricane Ida.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – While others were getting as far away from New Orleans as possible last week in advance of Hurricane Ida, Michelle Nutting headed into the teeth of the storm.

MICHELLE NUTTING: Monmouth graduate temporarily left her post at St. Louis TV station to assist p... MICHELLE NUTTING: Monmouth graduate temporarily left her post at St. Louis TV station to assist peers during Category 4 hurricane in New Orleans.The 2011 Monmouth College graduate, who’s a news producer at St. Louis television station KSDK-5, traveled to Louisiana to help WWL-4, a sister station in Tegna Inc.’s corporate family, with its around-the-clock coverage of what turned out to be another destructive event in the Crescent City.

“Any big story that’s happening across the country, whether it’s an active shooter, whether it’s flooding, wildfires – just any kind of big story that your station is going to be covering essentially wall-to-wall, which means non-stop, 24 hours, no breaks – the station will put out a call for help through corporate,” said Nutting.

She had answered a previous call to New Orleans two years ago for help covering Hurricane Barry, but that storm only reached Category 1. Ida, however, topped out at Category 4, which means sustained winds of 130-156 miles per hour.

“Barry ended up being nothing in the city,” said Nutting. “It was supposed to be pretty destructive and dangerous and it didn’t pan out to be anything. I really got put into the fire this time.”


No hype, just news

That said, Nutting said that WWL was not into hyping the storm, so she and other broadcast journalists were not put in harm’s way. The station was in a building designed to withstand the hurricane, and its backup generators ensured that power was never interrupted throughout the storm.

“The cool thing about this station is they’ve covered hundreds and hundreds of hurricanes,” said Nutting. “They are not the hype station. They are not the ones who are out with the wind blowing saying, ‘This is what’s happening now.’ The stuff that you see on the Weather Channel is not the stuff that the station does. They made it clear when we got there that we were not here to build hype.”

What Nutting and others were there to do was assist with non-stop coverage that reached 90 consecutive hours, offering their various areas of expertise so that others could get some rest.

UNDER CONTROL: While chaos swirled around outside the station, Michelle Nutting and her co-worker... UNDER CONTROL: While chaos swirled around outside the station, Michelle Nutting and her co-workers stayed focused on the job at hand … providing non-stop coverage of Hurricane Ida.“They’re on the air for 70 to 90 hours straight,” she said. “It is amazing to see the abilities that these anchors and producers and managers have to be able to keep going, because you always have to have something ready to go. It’s very interesting to see how they’re able to do it in this circumstance, but then it’s also a good learning experience, because you can take the things that you’ve learned about cranking out content and making sure that there’s always something next and take it back to situations that we might have in St Louis.”

When Nutting arrived at the station, she went straight to the control room, “where your show is created and how you make the newscast actually come to life.”

“You have to have lines, you have to have placeholders to be able to attach the video and you have to have graphics for the lower third of the screen, so basically I did all of that coordination,” she said. “I was adding in the rundown, making sure the script was there, making sure the lower third was there and spelled correctly, making sure that it’s coded correctly so the director can bring it up and making sure that we didn’t go to black on air.”

‘I would do it again’

Nutting fulfilled those duties for 16 hours one day and 12 hours the next.

“After the storm had passed on Tuesday and Wednesday, they actually had me produce the newscast, because they were down producers and they needed help, so I was really just thrown into the mix as if I were at home.” — Michelle Nutting

“But that’s how you learn,” she said.

And then she learned even more.

“After the storm had passed on Tuesday and Wednesday, they actually had me produce the newscast, because they were down producers and they needed help, so I was really just thrown into the mix as if I were at home,” she said.

She also learned that if she’s ever assigned to cover her third hurricane, she’ll pack a little differently.

“I would be a little bit more prepared and bring more snacks,” she said, referring to the loss of power throughout much of the city, which meant that streaming was the way viewers accessed the broadcasts.

And Nutting does hope to do it again.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Chris (Goble) and Professor Angotti. I love Monmouth. It has a special place in my heart and always will.” — Michelle Nutting

“You’re there for 16 hours and you’re thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’ and then you leave and go back and have chats and talk about lives back at home and you kind of build a bond that no one else has. It’s really cool and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Nutting feels similarly about her choice to attend Monmouth and about her experiences in the communications studies department with faculty members Chris Goble and Joe Angotti.

“Chris and I have stayed in touch,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Chris and Professor Angotti. I love Monmouth. It has a special place in my heart and always will.”

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