The following is the script written by Photographer Brian Lukas to introduce Bill Capo at the New Orleans Press Club the night he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
I was honored when Bill asked me to introduce him, but in reality, Bill Capo really needs no introduction.
I know Bill Capo from way back, when, as a young reporter, he had an abundance of dark brown hair and wore thick-framed glasses that seemed oversized for his thin face.
Well, back then his youthful appearance tended to hide his maturity and intelligence. Some might say, even beyond his seemingly young years. It was decades ago. But as young reporter he tackled the complicated stories, even sought them out. He learned from the veterans in the business, but quickly developed his own style. He became thoughtful, tough, and tenacious in his profession, but most of all, fair in his reporting. He never gave up.
How many here have been given or seen Bill's hurricane lecture? Well, to give you an idea, Bill has a tendency to corral brand new reporters, usually not from this area, and lecture them for almost two or three hours on how to cover hurricanes. After the tedious hours of lecture by Bill, the young journalist’s eyes would eventually glaze over, their hands would tremble from fear, but, in the background the newsroom staff would all chuckle at the polite discomfort exhibited by the new reporter.
But, you see, Bill lectures the new generation of reporters because we don’t. Bill has become a mentor to the younger members of our newsroom, sharing his decades of experience covering countless storms and hurricanes. His experiences are a treasure trove of knowledge and he graciously passes them to the next generation of journalists.
Imagine covering the devastating impact of a fully-loaded passenger plan crashing into a neighborhood. All aboard perished. TWA Flight 759 destroyed a Kenner neighborhood and for days and weeks later, on the scene, Bill told those horrific stories. People needed to be informed about their loved ones - those who survived, and those now gone.
Imagine covering an environmental disaster in war-ravaged El Salvador, when, during an earthquake, an entire mountainside collapsed on a village burying scores of people. Bill reported from El Salvador, making the public aware of the plight of thousands who were then forced to live in the jungles of El Salvador, many faced with disease and starvation. Bill reported on their dire conditions. The people of New Orleans responded with several flights of medical supplies and clothing.
Then, going back to El Salvador Bill reported on the tin sheds that the displaced were forced to live in. In the intense heat of the equatorial region, these tin sheds were referred to as microwave ovens. Bill’s reports eventually led to small contemporary and decent housing for those displaced by the earthquake.
Imagine being taught to fly a space shuttle by shuttle pilot Doug Hurley just before the last space shutter flight, and then covering that last flight from Cape Kennedy. Bill’s reports echoed pride and what it meant to the thousands of Michoud workers who help our mission in space.
There are so many other stories, countless stories.
Bill seems especially to care about the people that truly need help - the disabled, the elderly, families that, through no fault of their own, fell into hard times, good people that were being taken advantage by the powerful in rough situations, in sad times. It is a daunting task to describe a career of more than four decades, but for Bill Capo to endure in a television career this long, in this tough, and demanding business, is a testament to his dedication of serving the viewers.
Routinely Bill has to observe and report on the worst and sometimes best of humanity in a time frame of mere seconds for television. Bill has not only survived and told history’s difficult stories, but thrived on communicating to the public, important information concerning issues and matters of everyday life.
Noted historian Stephen Ambrose once said “History is about people and there is nothing more interesting to people then other people.
Bill's reports focused on people.
One such story was of an elderly couple in Gentilly surviving in a small, hot car in the very difficult months after Hurricane Katrina. An aging WWII Veteran, Mr. Green and his wife lived - if you call that living - and slept in their vehicle outside their gutted house. It was sad, so very sad to see the couple who were married for over 60 years having to start all over. Bill told their story, one of the many stories he reported on during and after Hurricane Katrina. He told the Green’s story with compassion and with a passion, and with the dignity they deserved. After Bill’s report Mr. and Mrs. Green moved into temporary housing and eventually returned to their house that became their home again. This is only one of many stories, but, it is an example of Bill Capo’s care to seek assistance for those who might have given up or given in to the desperation after one of the most tragic stories in American history. Bill helped many people and touched many lives and I’m proud to call him my friend.
Ladies and Gentlemen - friends and colleagues - may I humbly present to you, my friend. Bill Capo.
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