Perspectives Online

CALS alumna works behind the scenes to bring the world's headlines home

CNN's Sara Lane
Odell Langston

The morning after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast, CNN associate producer Sara Lane set out with reporter Anderson Cooper to find and help tell the world the stories of those whose lives had changed overnight.

Her retelling of that day sheds as much light on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduate and her passion for her job - and for people - as it does about her experiences in the 17 days she spent covering the storm's aftermath in Waveland, Bay St. Louis and New Orleans.

In Waveland, a small coastal town in Mississippi, wind and water wiped out nearly everything in the 10 blocks that spanned the railroad tracks and the Gulf. The streets were largely deserted after the storm.

"But we found a family - a dad, a daughter and a son - carrying water bottles and MREs," she recalls. "And so we stopped and talked to them."

The family lived just beyond the railroad tracks, in a modest two-story house with a small barn in the backyard. Before the storm, the barn was home to 15 miniature horses, but the floodwaters there rose to the second floor of the house and engulfed the barn. Three horses died and two were missing, and the family had no way to feed the 10 survivors.

Lane and the rest of the CNN crew helped send out to the nation the family's appeal for help finding the horses a new home where they would be safe, cared for and well fed.

Lane, who grew up on a North Carolina dairy farm, learned days later that the horses had, indeed, been rescued.

"I could really feel for this family, because I know I'd be worried about my cows," she says. And it was a wonderful feeling, she says, to know that she'd play a part in helping the family and their horses.

Lane's desire to help people tell their stories and to let them know what's going on in the world led the Yanceyville native to undergraduate studies as a Park Scholar in agricultural business management and communication at N.C. State and then to graduate school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. From there, she held fellowships with ABC and CNN. And, in 2004, she was hired as a researcher on CNN's national desk. Now she's with "Paula Zahn Now," one of the network's primetime shows.

As an associate producer, Lane researches stories, travels into the field to help with conducting and recording interviews, and then writes them up and edits them.

She's worked on hundreds of stories, ranging from rising milk prices to corporate scandal to the Iraq War.

Lane credits her experience as an N.C. State student and an FFA member and officer with helping her build the leadership and speaking skills as well as the self-confidence she needed to achieve her goal of working in broadcast journalism.

While she once envisioned herself on camera - "the next Diane Sawyer," as she puts it - she says her real passion is working behind the scenes, where she can "help the people on air look good."

She says she loves her job and intends to stay with CNN for at least several years.

After that, she says, "Who knows?" Teaching, humanitarian or other non-profit work might be in her future, given what she describes as her "calling to do good things."

Covering four hurricanes has allowed her to meld that calling with what she calls her "need to let people know what's going on in the world."

- Dee Shore