Hurricane Katrina Gave Birth to NetNewsLedger


THUNDER BAY – Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore into New Orleans eight years ago. Katrina was the worst hurricane in the United States since 1928. It was also the costliest natural disaster in American history. In many ways, Hurricane Katrina changed the United States. The storm was a turning point for then President George W. Bush. 

Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall i...
Hurricane Katrina making its second landfall in Louisiana, as seen by NWS New Orleans radar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The President’s reaction and response to the storm was seen as ineffective. 

NNL - Sept 1 2006 on September 1 2006

Hurricane Katrina also gave birth to NetNewsLedger. The storm changed many lives, and from a personal level, although I had never been in New Orleans, and have never been through a hurricane, it was through writing and reporting on that horrible event, and witnessing how the Internet could be used as a tool for reporting that NNL was founded.

Eight years ago, my plan was to attend Confederation College. That plan was interrupted because of an email. That email was from a person in a small community on the Gulf Coast of the United States. They had prepared a list of where the people in their community of fifty-six people were going. The young woman asked if I could publish that list for her.

NNL December 3 2007
NNL December 3 2007

At the time, I didn’t really know how, but felt it should be done. I opened the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, and went to save it. It was saved in an html format, and put online. That opened the floodgates to a huge number of similar requests. I ended up, sitting with a Sony Vaio Laptop on my knees, building a team of about twenty people from around the world, and we focused on creating a missing persons list from New Orleans.

We ended up with a pretty massive list, and when the project was taken over by the ‘Katrina Scrapers’ and master lists were generated, we were the 13th largest list, one behind CNN. Right then and there I realized that while education is important, perhaps time could be better spent doing rather than learning to do. was born

new site pictureIn the early days, NNL was basically hand-coded. I wrote the css, and formatted each article individually. It was, in today Internet terms almost the same as back in the days when a newspaper was put together with individual pieces of type. 

NNL moved, first to Joomla, and then to WordPress. The look and feel and scope of the site has continued. 

NetNewsLedger has moved forward, building and innovating, and doing new things all the time. First working with videographer Paul Morralee, we did the first live Internet broadcast of a Thunder Bay City Council Meeting. Those tests were done at the Italian Cultural Centre while construction of the new City Hall was underway.

In a way, in August, returning ‘home’ to the Italian Cultural Centre to do the World’s First Broadcast of a Festa Italiana was really special. It brought NNL full circle in many ways.

There are many ‘firsts’ that NetNewsLedger have accomplished in the eight years since we first started publishing in Thunder Bay. 

They include the first ever Live Stream broadcast of a Pow Wow in Northwestern Ontario. The Lakehead University Native Students Association (LUNSA) was willing to work with NNL two years ago to do that. The students, and the Elders were willing to take a technology leap forward with us, and it is a move that I believe helps to forge friendships and teach tolerance in our city and region.

Lakehead University LUNSA Pow Wow 25th Anniversary Part 1 March 16 2013 by netnewsledger

If you watch those early Livestream Videos, and compare them to the evolution, at the ‘Speed of the Internet’ that is happening, what we are doing is moving from recording events to broadcasting events that are very similar to watching them on your television. As we continue to move forward, one of our goals are to be taking you inside more live events across the city.

One of our goals has been to take the ‘sound bite’ out of the reporting of news. That is where our ‘Leader’s Ledgers’ and our HD Livestream+© come in. When we cover an event, and stream the entire presentation, like the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce / Cliffs Natural Resources Luncheon with Minister Greg Rickford earlier in August, we are able to share with you the whole event. 

Greg Rickford – Speech to Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce Aug 14th 2013 by netnewsledger

We have done that earlier with the Mayor’s State of the City Address. 

Moving the production side forward has come with the amazing help of many people. We have had helpers, volunteers, and dedicated people helping to build NetNewsLedger. 

Looking forward, in many ways having born out of a hurricane is likely not a bad thing. As we have moved forward, there have been many times when things have been stormy. However we have never lost sight of the key goal, and that is to bring to you, our readers and now in many cases, our viewers the news and information you need to now. ‘News at the Speed of the Internet©” is our goal and promise to you.

We were born in a storm, we have matured in a storm, and we are reporting to you about the storms of our world and region!

It is what we are all about.

The real truth however is we could not do it with out you.

And for that, from the bottom of my heart, a heartfelt thank you.

James Murray


Some Memories as We Grow

As we have grown, there have been times the news desk has had special people take over. After all the future of the entire region is in the hands of the youth.

Working on NNL
The future for our region in the hands of the youth….

Taking a principled stand… NetNewsLedger will stand up for what we believe is right…

Thunder Bay Maple Forest
Right now an old growth Maple Forest is under ‘attack’, right here in Thunder Bay on the Nor’Westers.

We live in a community where determination and grit make all the difference… 

Dirty Girls Thunder Bay
Getting ready to get dirty at Dirty Girls Thunder Bay Mud Run

We have formed a special bond with Camp Quality Thunder Bay… Thank you Clara!

Camp Quality
Camp Quality

The First Nations Community has a key and integral role in our future. May all the ladies be “Oji-Steel” like this young lady.

Fort William First Nation
Amanda is a shawl dancer. This young woman demonstrates the strength and resilient power of her culture.

We will bring you news and information sometimes long before anyone else!

The Bank Cleaned Out
Councillor at Large Aldo Ruberto, Urban Greenscapes Dan Fulton paust for a quick photo.

News at the Speed of the Internet©


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