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By Amy Ryan
Updated September 02, 2005 at 11:43 PM EDT
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There’s been a lot of grumbling about the Katrina coverage on network news. Like, where is it? TVNewser reports that all the networks are planning to expand their nightly newscasts to an hour tonight — but with a couple exceptions (NBC yanking Tommy Lee Goes to College, ABC cutting an episode of Lost), they have not preempted primetime entertainment shows to report on one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history. On the other hand, the cable news channels have been doing a heroic job, given the desperate conditions they’ve had to work under. They haven’t shied away from presenting images we seldom see on American television news, including footage of poverty-stricken African-Americans, whose lack of means to escape made them a majority of the victims.

Understandably, many reporters have abandoned their pose of objectivity. (You’d be on edge too if you needed armed guards to protect you on the streets of an American city.) CNN’s Anderson Cooper (left) got so angry that he berated a U.S. senator during an interview. (Read the transcript here.) Yet this subjectivity could be just what TV news needs to restore its reputation. If nothing else, Katrina could be the event that gets viewers to stop seeing TV journalists as out-of-touch elitists, if only because the reporters have been forced to stop acting like out-of-touch elitists.

MEANWHILE: More celebs are stepping up to contribute. New Orleans-born Ellen DeGeneres hopes to raise $1.5 million; she and Warner Bros. Television, which produces her talk show, will each match up to $500,000 in fan contributions to the Red Cross. Nicolas Cage, who has a home in New Orleans, has pledged $1 million; Hilary Duff has pledged $250,000.

Cable’s Great American Country is the latest channel to add a telethon. Its Sept. 27 event will feature Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, Marty Stuart, Craig Morgan, Julie Roberts, and Billy Currington. The telethon that had been scheduled for early next week on all six broadcast networks has been moved to Friday, Sept. 9, to give producers time to organize phone banks. No host or stars have yet been named for that show. E! is creating a series of public service announcements that will debut tomorrow, with stars including Eva Longoria, Pamela Anderson, Destiny’s Child, Steve Carell, Nicole Richie, John Larroquette, Julie Andrews, Brooke Burns, George Lopez, Lucy Lawless, Mariah Carey, Carlos Santana, and Paula Abdul.

On their own initiative, a group of Jessica Simpson fans at jessicastyle.com have organized a fund drive to help rescue animals stranded by the flooding. No word yet on whether Simpson herself will lend her name to the cause.

addCredit(“Anderson Cooper: Jennifer Graylock/AP”)

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