CNN to Mark Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina With Month of Specials

Ratings-troubled network revisits storm that put Anderson Cooper on the map

Ratings-troubled CNN is revisiting perhaps its finest journalistic moments on cable television — marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a month’s worth of special programming.

CNN will roll out “special coverage across all platforms that will chronicle how communities, people and businesses have changed over the past five years and how far the region has come in their rebuilding efforts.”

Here’s what the network has planned:

>> Anderson Cooper — whose career accelerated, largely, on the strength of his coverage of the storm (he even wrote a book, “Dispatches From the Edge,” about it) — will host a half-hour special (“CNN Heroes: Coming Back from Katrina”) on August 14.

>> Soledad O'Brien’s hour-long “New Orleans Rising” — an “in-depth look at how five years after the hurricane, even a united and highly successful middle-class community like Pontchartrain Park struggles to rebuild” — debuts August 21.

>> On August 28, Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, revisits the hospital where he reported from during Katrina

>> And is launching a Katrina mini-site, where it is inviting users – err, “iReporters” — to submit updated photos and stories of storm-damaged neighborhoods matched to photos taken in 2005 and 2006.

Marking anniversaries appears to be part of CNN’s current strategy, no matter how recent. Larry King celebrated 25 years on the air in June with a week’s worth of high-profile interviews; Cooper went back to Haiti in July to mark the sixth anniversary of the earthquake.

There’s evidence, however, that viewers aren’t as into anniversaries as CNN. King got a ratings boost, but that was due to high-profile guests (LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton) than eyeballs attracted by his silver anniversary. And Cooper averaged 575,000 total viewers in July, down 56 percent over 2009 – the second least-watched month for Cooper ever.

Here's a clip of Cooper on the air during Katrina: