Lee Zurik Appreciation Post

WWL-TV’s own Lee Zurik, dragonslayer extraordinaire gets high praise from the NOLA Blogosphere as a champion of all things right in this town.

Watching him on WWL-TV is a pleasure. His exterior is soft and non-threatening, and his voice is smooth, easygoing and peaceful – he never raises his voice to anyone. Unlike Dennis Woltering who is aggressive and goes for the jugular, when Zurik interviews his subjects he gains their trust and asks his questions so gently that it must be hard for them not to reply. It is a pleasure to watch Zurik, unlike Woltering who seems to have the ability to make his television viewer squirm in their seat during his stories. But don’t let the cool calm facade fool you, Zurik is the only TV newsman that has taken the time to dig deep into the corruption and pathetic apathy of the people in power who are shoveling this city into the ground and to attack their achilles heels in the name of fair play and justice for New Orleans.

Case in point are a few expose’ pieces he presented recently on WWL

First is his piece on the floodwalls in St. Bernard Parish stuffed with newspaper

and the second is his piece on a New Orleans city contract with a 311 vendor

and here is a follow up piece on New Orleans’ city contract with a 311 vendor

Friday morning on WWL radio, the city of New Orleans intergovernmental relations director Kenya Smith answered questions about an Eyewitness News investigation in which experts and city council members said the city was paying about $17 million for a 3-year contract for 311 non-emergency service.

Smith, who would not agree to an interview with WWL-TV before or after the report, contended that the city budget caps the money allowed to pay any contract for the 311 system at $3.7 million.

Friday afternoon ACS, the company contracted to provide 311 service told us they interpreted the agreement somewhat differently, saying the contract costs just under $7 million for 3 years, because they aren’t providing service currently for everything spelled out in the contract.

That contradicts Rutgers University at Newark professor Robert Schick, who in the Eyewitness News story said he interpreted the contract to be worth as much as $32 million for six years.

Mayor Ray Nagin walks away from the camera as a WWL-TV producer attempts to ask questions about the 311 service contract Friday.

“If he based it on us paying $23 or $28 million instead of the $3 million or so dollars, then that analysis is fundamentally flawed to begin with,” said Smith. “No professional can do an analysis without speaking with the people involved.”

City council members say they also still have many questions about the contract, including trying to find out just how much the city’s contractor was paid in 2007, how much they’ll earn in 2008, and what that money’s going towards.

Among other questions remaining: Why did city council members, the inspector general, a professor and an administrator of a major city’s 311 call center all interpret the contract to be worth as much as $28 million.

And that doesn’t explain the alleged under performance of the 311 system or why 311 operators send complaints to city departments and why some say complaints get lost.

“Why is it you can call the operator, you can give the information to her, she calls the department, and at that point it goes into a black hole,” asked Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

An Eyewitness News crew tried to ask Mayor Nagin questions about the program’s performance and price and as he walked away from the cameras, he said he would not comment.

“I ain’t helping you sensationalize nothing,” he said. “You can go and find that information somewhere else.”

After requesting an on-camera interview with a representative of the city for weeks on this story, the city issued a statement just before 5 p.m. Friday, blasting the report.

“It is apparent from the report that the contract was misinterpreted and misread, which is negligent and unfair to our citizens, especially during this time of recovery,” said the statement.

The city said that the contract states the maximum sum paid to the contractor in 2007 would be $3.2 million, $500,00 less than the figure Smith gave on the radio Friday.

The city said the 311 contract is for one year, with options for renewal every year after that. They have not said how much the contract is worth in 2008, nor for any renewal thereafter.

Here the teflon mayor high-tails it away from Zurik as he barks I ain’t helping you sensationalize nothing, you can go and find that information somewhere else.

And the latest expose’ on Jay Blossman, the Entergy employee “fund soliciting” Public Service Commissioner

He is quite impressive and I for one am thankful he chose to broaden his horizons beyond reporting sports to reporting the hard stories that just might keep New Orleans respectable and elevate it beyond the incompetence (note picture immediately above) she is mired in right now.

Thank you Lee Zurik, thank you so very much from the bottom of mine, and many other NOLA bloggers hearts…

~ by maringouin on Wednesday, May 7, 2008.

5 Responses to “Lee Zurik Appreciation Post”

  1. AMEN! He better watch his back!

    I sent him an encouraging email the other day. Don’t know that his investigations will actually result in change, but at least he’s there pointing out corruption!

  2. PLUS, he goes to my synagogue!


  3. Mr. Z’s investigative reporting leaves much to be desired. His story on newspaper in floodwall expansion joints fingered the wrong company, and the lengthy footage of Craig Taffaro’s reaction to watching the video was just sensationalized and cheesy. Journalists who rely on reaction shots to make the story seem important are not fit for praise.



  4. Then perhaps you should e-mail Lee Zurik Tim with the correct information concerning the floodwalls and the newspaper expansion joints – I would think he would investigate further and correct the erroneous information publicly…

    Here is his e-mail address lzurik@wwltv.com


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