December 13, 2021

The images in Kentucky — buildings and homes destroyed as if picked up and crumbled by giant hands — are the stuff of nightmares. At least 80 were killed in Kentucky by tornados and that number is likely to rise in the coming days.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear had this grim assessment: “One of our challenges is we’re losing so many people in this, most of our morgues aren’t big enough, so our coroners from all over the state are coming in.” He added, “There’s not a camera lens big enough to show the path of absolute destruction. People have lost everything.”

Beshear told CNN “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper, “This is the deadliest tornado event we have ever had. I think it’s going to be the longest and deadliest tornado event in U.S. history. We know that one of these tornadoes was on the ground over 227 miles. And, Jake, 200 were in Kentucky. I have got towns that are gone, that are just, I mean, gone.”

David Muir anchored ABC’s “World News Tonight” from Mayfield, Kentucky, on Sunday and will do so again tonight. Lester Holt will anchor the “NBC Nightly News” and Norah O’Donnell will anchor the “CBS Evening News” from Kentucky tonight. O’Donnell was already on the ground Sunday and had an on-the-scene interview with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that aired on Sunday.

For stories like this, local journalism is critical. Much of it is behind a paywall, but check out the Louisville-based Courier-Journal, including Morgan Watkins with “’Don’t recognize this place’: Storms cut unprecedented line of destruction across Kentucky.”

And here are two notable graphic/visual pieces: The Washington Post’s Dylan Moriarty, Bonnie Berkowitz, Zach Levitt and Laris Karklis with “Deadly path: How tornadoes ripped through states”; and The New York Times’ Matthew Bloch, Keith Collins, Lazaro Gamio, Eleanor Lutz, Jugal K. Patel, Scott Reinhard and Anjali Singhvi with “Maps: Where the Tornadoes Struck, Destroying Buildings and Homes.”

Meanwhile, my Poynter colleague Al Tompkins, who is in Kentucky, has this piece: “Exhausted journalists are rising to the Kentucky tornado disaster.” He also has this outstanding work: “Reporters and photojournalists share stories from the 60-mile path of tornado destruction in Kentucky.”

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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