Originally created 09/17/99

Media keeps eye on storm



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Channel 15 reporter Karin Mallett planted herself firmly on a wooden deck along Ocean Boulevard on Wednesday.

Winds whipping by and waves crashing loudly behind her, Myrtle Beach's WPED-TV reporter stayed long after dark, relaying firsthand the fury that was Hurricane Floyd.

When disaster calls, residents evacuate. The media doesn't.

"We're in the business of public information, and this is when the public needs us the most," Ms. Mallett said during a lull in her half-hour television update. "It comes with the territory."

At The Breakers Hotel on Myrtle Beach, reporters clamored for available rooms. Represented were the New York Times, 20/20, Time magazine, The Associated Press, PBS, and every television station that could book a room. The hotel provided them an oceanfront view of the passing storm.

Of course, journalists "assumed the responsibility for their life and safety," a hotel memo stated. "This is a very large, strong and dangerous storm -- something we have never experienced before."

For many reporters, facing the possible catastrophe of Floyd was part of the job. And, to be honest, breaking news like this promised excitement, said Kevin Harned, a meteorologist from Louisville, Ky. He said hurricane forecasters had predicted the "Storm of the Century," and who among the media wanted to miss that?

"I think there is a national fascination because of the mystery," he said. "And I think everyone gets a thrill out of the devastation."

Mr. Harned compared the attraction to a day at a NASCAR race:

"People don't go for the race," he said. "They go for the wrecks."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.