FNC's John Roberts Is in the Teeth of the Storm to Cover Hurricane Irene

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John-Roberts-FNC-Kill-Devil-Hills.jpgAs Hurricane Irene pounds the East Coast, a lot of people (especially the sensible ones) headed for the high ground. But TV reporters don't have that luxury, if their networks plan to report to viewers exactly what's happening on the ground.

One of those reporters is Fox News Channel's senior national correspondent John Roberts, based in Atlanta, Ga., who is reporting from Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, right in the path of the hurricane.

While cell service is spotty, Roberts was able to answer some email questions from HCTV on the purpose and experience of braving the teeth of the storm (questions in bold):

Q: What is the value of having a correspondent right in the heart of the storm?

A: It's similar to having a correspondent in a war zone. You need someone there to report on the situation on the ground.  What the storm looks like -- how people are coping --  the level of damage, etc. The Outer Banks is a very popular spot.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans travel there every week for vacation. When a storm hits, their vacations are interrupted. They're curious about an area they know and want to see what's happening.

In a story like Katrina, we were on the ground when the storm hit, and were able to report on the breaching of levees within a couple of hours of it happening. If crews had waited until after the storm to come into town, an entire piece of that story would have been lost.

Now, I don't believe you have to go play in the surf to illustrate a storm. I think it tells the story itself. And I'm torn about doing reports that have us blowing around in the wind. I'm not sure viewers get a whole lot from that, though they do like to see their correspondents hard at work. It also, of course, provides for more than a few comical moments.


Q: At what point or points have you feared for your own safety or that of your crew?John-Roberts-FNC-Kill-Devil-Hills-Hurricane-Irene.jpg


A: I have never feared for my safety during a storm. We take enough precautions that we stay pretty safe. But as Katrina was heading toward Louisiana as a Category 5 storm, I did pause for a moment and say "What the hell am I doing here again?


Q: How do you manage to deliver the news while being buffeted and rained on?


A: It's like playing golf at the British Open. You learn to love it.


Q: Why Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina?


A: There's a sense of history here, with the Wright Brothers and all that. It's also a very popular tourist destination. The mayor, Ray Sturza is a very accommodating fellow, and the people at Shutters On the Banks turned their entire hotel over to us


Q: Walk us through the preparation for doing a live hit on the run during a storm.


A: You basically have all the facts and figures on the storm, all the knowledge you have acquired over years of covering storms and a few colorful moments that you can relate to the audience. Other than having a couple of pieces of sound that I might want to use, I really never go into a shot with much of a plan. I just sort of let it evolve organically.

Q: Are you using social media to get your message out during the storm?

A: I'm tweeting furiously..! (At @johnrobertsFox)

Q: Should the government spend money to rescue people who are aware of evacuation procedures and ignore them?

A: In the same way that hospitals can't turn away the sick because they don't have insurance, local authorities really don't have much of a choice. But they -- and we -- can try to get the word out to the best of our ability that it's a wise idea to evacuate when officials tell you to.

Here's a video clip of Roberts' coverage from early Saturday morning, Aug. 27: