Posts Tagged ‘DFMies’

Recognition for reflecting on the WV water crisis

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Well done to Charleston Daily Mail multimedia reporter Marcus Constantino, who has been recognized for his compilation of a useful and interesting interactive timeline of the WV water contamination.


Marcus Constantino

The timeline, which Marcus compiled using a program called Timeline JS, organized news links, photos, videos, social media and reports — making it one-stop-shopping for people who want to look back at what 300,000 of us went through this past winter.

The project won a monthly award from Digital First Media for April for the region including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Journalists from other Digital First Media publications judge the work. Here is what one judge said:

The timeline compilation provided a clean and clear path through what otherwise would have been a daunting array of reporting for someone unfamiliar with the story. I feel that I journeyed from the position of ignorant visitor to an interested and affected local following the trail of stories, reading about the incident as it unfolded. Great work from the reporters gathering the information, writing solid stories, shooting helpful and informative video.

Another judge said:

They say journalism is the first draft of history, and the Daily Mail’s interactive timeline of the chemical leak provides a comprehensive document of a significant community and statewide event. There’s photo, video, links to previous news stories and primary source documents, all presented in an easy-to-follow, visually appealing format. That is no small feat, given the amount of information packed into the timeline. Readers get a sense of how events unfolded over the course of particular days and over the course of weeks and of both the immediate impacts and the long-term policy implications as the state tries to get more regulatory control over this industry. This is a true community service that uses the digital techniques to their full capacity.

This was the third month in a row that Daily Mail staff has won this award. Staff won in January for overall coverage of the water contamination, and then staffers Billy Wolfe and Matt Murphy won in February for their project to distribute abandoned photos from Lindsay’s photo studio back to people in our community.






Old photos and new honors

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Congratulations to the Daily Mail’s Billy Wolfe and Matt Murphy, who have earned appreciation from our community and from fellow journalists for their project to distribute pictures that were left behind in 2000 after Lindsay’s Studio in Charleston’s East End shut down.

Wolfe, an assistant city editor, and Murphy, who covers local government, were named winners of Digital First Media’s February awards program for the region that includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia.

More importantly, they have provided a great service for members of our community by reuniting families with photos that might otherwise have gotten lost.

oldpicsMurphy and Wolfe, along with staffers like Ashley B. Craig and Zack Harold, have gathered up boxes of photos, taken pictures of hundreds of the original images and uploaded them onto the Charleston Daily Mail’s Facebook page. Many of the photos have also appeared in the daily newspaper, where they’ve been popular content.

Residents who identify friends and family have come in to our office to claim the pictures.

The project began with a germ of an idea from a Charleston Urban Renewal Authority meeting: “Thousands of photos of Kanawha Valley residents have been found in a building purchased by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, and officials want to connect as many of them to their subjects as possible. “

The idea sprouted into a story and then snowballed.

“Basically, I was interested in doing the story after hearing about the studio during a CURA meeting,” Murphy said. “Either the same day or the day after I wrote the story, Billy came up with the idea to try to get some of the photos from the studio to put on Facebook. Billy’s the one who contacted Ric Cavender (East End Main Street director) and after Billy started the project, I got in touch with CURA director Jim Edwards to get back into the building.

“When the story  ran, we had both 1A photos claimed the same day. We also had the photo of a little girl in a follow-up story that week that was claimed the day the story ran in the paper. “

The Digital First Media judges — fellow journalists — thought Matt and Billy were crazy. But they said so in an admiring way:

With limited resources and busy beats, it is hard to argue with any reporter or news agency that shies away from seemingly labor intensive projects where the impact is somewhat unknown. But the Charleston Daily Mail used ingenuity to take what would seem like a daunting task and turned it into an impactful, digital project that touches the very core of their readers. 
Using Facebook as the medium, the staff created a digital database of their community’s past with these photos and, in essence, collaborated with their readers to tell this story. Doing it in such a way made a great project possible, when traditional methods may have needed too many resources. Smartly done and presented.  

Another judge said:

I definitely have to go with the Charleston Daily Mail submission. It’s an outstanding cross-level project, utilizing both time-honored newspaper tactics and social media angles. It’s a useful community effort, but still engaging enough to grab the attention of people who don’t live in the area. I think it’s an excellent example of what journalism can be in the Digital First world.

Murphy said the effort was worthwhile and grew because the original duo got valuable help.

“Our original intent was to put a couple hundred or so photos online, but it’s grown, especially because Zack and Ashley have helped A LOT. As of today about 99 of the photos have been claimed out of about 1,200 we’ve cataloged so far.”

The Daily Mail’s role in the distribution is winding down, with a grand finale expected during a popular upcoming community event.

“We’ll be organizing a public viewing/claiming event during the East End Yard Sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10,” Murphy said. “From there, we don’t know. The library might house them at some point.

It’s been a fun journey into the personal histories of our town’s residents and a popular community engagement project. All in all, a success.


This is one of hundreds of photographs that were placed on the Daily Mail’s Facebook page for people to identify. Do you know these young sports fans?





Congratulations to the Daily Mail’s annual DFMie finalists

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital First Media announced the winners of its second annual DFMies (silly name, cool contest) and the Charleston Daily Mail’s entries were not among the top finishers. (We had a winner last year, Zack Harold.)

No shame in that. As the company itself says, Digital First Media‘s more than 800 multi-platform products reach 67 million Americans each month across 18 states. So it’s a pretty big company and there are a lot of good people doing terrific work. Any competition is bound to be stiff.

We’re proud to have two finalists who are big-time contributors to what we do.

Zack Harold

Zack Harold

One was Zack Harold, the Daily Mail’s life and community engagement editor. Say that job title with me three times fast.

Zack actually won the award for work he did when he was one of our Statehouse writers. He was a DFMie finalist in the “live coverage” category. (It took the entire staff of the New Haven Register to defeat him. Darn you, New Haven Register!)

I entered Zack for his coverage of an environmental protest at the West Virginia Capitol. Here is my entry, which included, by necessity, some weird third-person references to myself:

On Aug. 21, reporters heard over the scanner that an environmental protester had chained himself to a barrel of dirty water right in front of the West Virginia governor’s mansion.

We dispatched photographer Tom Hindman and statehouse reporter Zack Harold to the scene. Zack asked, “Do you want me to tweet about it?”

Editor Brad McElhinny said, fatefully, “Yeah, sure.”

Zack tweeted the blow-by-blow account and produced a Storify to post in his Capitol Notebook blog, plus a story for the next day’s newspaper.

But the extra twist of interest occurred when a journalistic debate broke out over Twitter.

McElhinny summarized the debate and posted it as a Storify in his editor’s blog.


Katy Brown

Another finalist for our paper is not actually a member of our staff. It’s Charleston resident Katy Brown, who was highly considered for the “community blogger” category. Here’s how the category was described: “Entry is not a staff member, but someone in your community who blogs for your website or blogs independently, linked to from your website and part of your Community Media Lab or other network. Entry should include no more than 100 words of explanation and no more than three links to works.”

(The winner of the category is a Golden State Warriors blogger from the San Francisco Bay area. Very different from The Mommyhood, I tell you.)

So the entry had to be pretty short, barely bigger than a tweet. I summed up Katy’s contributions this way and provided these links.

Katy Brown blogs like clockwork for the Daily Mail’s “Mommyhood” blog and has gained a community following for her posts that range from humorous to poignant. She enjoys participating in the comments section and chats with readers via Facebook and Twitter. She’s an asset to our site and is a destination read.
Fruitcakes and nutcases


Rules for an Unstructured Summer

In informing us that Katy was a finalist, Digital First’s Steve Buttry wrote this note to her:

You probably have never heard of a DFMie, but I want to let you know that Mommyhood was a finalist for one.
Digital First Media, the parent company of the Charleston Daily Mail, conducts an annual awards program to recognize editorial excellence by our newsroom staffs. Because we value our relationships with community bloggers, we include an award for the best community blog in our 70-plus daily newsrooms. Brad McElhinny nominated you for a 2014 DFMie and you were one of three finalists for the award. (Another blogger won the award, though.)
Thanks for your contributions to the Daily Mail and congratulations on this recognition!
Well done to Zack and to Katy. Keep up the good work, and we’ll get ’em next year.
(And congratulations to the deserving recipients of this year’s DFMies.)


Charleston Daily Mail recognized for water crisis coverage

Friday, March 7, 2014

I’ve been proud of the Charleston Daily Mail”s coverage of the water contamination that hit our community Jan. 9.

Our main goal during the situation was to inform and help our community. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see our staff be recognized for its work.

Digital First Media recognized the Daily Mail with a monthly “DFMie” for the region that includes its publications in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Here is our entry, followed by some very nice comments by judges:

1A Evening 01-10-2014.qxd (Page A1)On Jan. 9, residents of Charleston started reporting an unusual smell in the air. Some compared it to licorice, others to Robitussin. By that evening, it was clear the situation was much more serious. The chemical, which was being stored in tanks along the Elk River, had entered the intake valve at West Virginia American Water and contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people across nine counties.

The Daily Mail staff immediately started a live blog using CoverItLive to give residents immediate updates. The live blog ran for a week as residents were urged to not consume their water, not to bathe and not to use it for everyday activities such as washing dishes or laundry. The live blog got 44,831 views and 7,439 clicks.
One more important number wasn’t a web stat: The Daily Mail staff, along with the Charleston Newspapers circulation department and Trane Heating and Cooling, distributed 900 cases of water, a day after the crisis hit, to community members who had none.  We also used our blogs, our Twitter and our Facebook to let people know other places they could find bottled water being distributed.
Other highlights of our early coverage included two explanatory videos about how the crisis happened. The first, by Elaine McMillion and Dave Boucher, got 1,281 views in our NDN player and 4,208 on YouTube. A second by McMillion and Marcus Constantino got 582 views in NDN and 357 on YouTube.
Since that first day, in a water crisis that has lasted more than a month, the Daily Mail staff has written more than 100 accounts of the crisis — which has taken a few more turns, including a lack of knowledge about the effects of the chemical, several revisions about the amount of chemical that actually leaked, a late warning for pregnant women not to use the water even after the initial ban was lifted, the later revelation that yet another chemical leaked and the ongoing odor that remains in people’s water lines. Eventually the story became distrust.

1A Evening 01-15-2014.qxd (Page A1)By Jan. 15, the Daily Mail was asking residents how long it would be until they would willingly drink their tap water again — a question accompanied by an iconic front page and a story and video by Marcus Constantino.
On Jan. 22, when a little more time had passed, the Daily Mail staff sampled bottled water to pass recommendations with a lighter touch to a community that was now committed to the bottled version for the long haul. People seemed to appreciate the Life page levity.
The response to our coverage, in terms of readership and numbers, has been impressive. But what the stats really mean is we do and have done a good job of informing our community by whatever means we can. Residents seem to appreciate our effort and our commitment to this story.

The Digital First Media awards are judged by the staffs of other newsrooms. The judges had kind words about the Daily Mail’s coverage:

The Charleston Daily Mail deftly managed the Elk River contamination, providing all-angles coverage without diluting content. The show-stealer is the artistry of videographer Elaine McMillion in “West Virginia Water Woes, 36 Hour Recap,” which is also a testament to the explanatory reporting skills of David Boucher. This video is not just informative – it’s striking. I was further impressed by the work of reporters Marcus Constantino and Matt Murphy; a hot shower well-earned by all.

Another judge:

It excelled all judging criteria areas, especially the digital skills and community engagement.  The live blog was timely and provided an immediate forum for compelling and relevant information that the community needed to know and engaged in.  The explanatory videos were well made and good supplements to the written stories.  They took extra steps in community service with their bottled water distribution and their lighter bottled water review.  Overall,  it was a really nice package of stories using the online medium.

And another:

The Charleston Daily Mail staff put together a comprehensive and engaging coverage of the West Virginia water contamination crisis. This was journalism at its finest, getting in front of the story and keeping the public informed. Their use of social media was also a perfect example of today’s journalism without sacrificing the foundation and basis of newspaper reporting that people come to expect from us. Their use of social media put the story in a new light and helped reach as many people as possible in an evolving and vital story. It was simply not enough to run it in print. The live blog, the videos, the how-to videos all were exactly what the public needed from their local community newspaper organization. I personally liked the humanitarian element of passing out water bottles and assuaging community fears during a tumultuous time. I personally would have loved to been on the “bottle water tasting committee.” All in all, it all came together for this staff. The people certainly lost faith in the water company and their government, but they certainly gained trust in their local newspaper. Kudos.

Congratulations to Dave Boucher

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Congratulations to reporter Dave Boucher, who has won a monthly award from Digital First Media for his coverage of the controversial film “Oxyana,” which focuses on prescription drug abuse in southern West Virginia.

Dave Boucher

Dave Boucher

Dave, who is a seemingly tireless reporter, invested his time and interest in the story, using the film as a launching point for a discussion of southern West Virginia, prescription drug abuse and ethics.

He started with three stories about public reaction to “Oxyana,” a look at what the actual numbers of prescription drug abuse reveal and a discussion of possible solutions — and continued to cover the film and public debate after that.

Here’s what one of the judges said:

Wow, this was an easy choice to make. I’m going with the terrific series by Dave Boucher of the Daily Mail. These stories were really well written, and each time the lede captured my attention right away. Combine that with resource after resource, and it was like a book I could not put down. Of course, the subject had a lot to do with why it was so good. But Mr. Boucher did the type of reporting that should make any of us proud. Really a fine, fine job.

This is Dave’s entry. It explains his reporting approach and the results:

The state of West Virginia and filmmakers have a sordid history, leaving residents a little hesitant to work with any film crews. Not surprisingly then, citizens of the small town of Oceana were up in arms over descriptions of their home in a documentary called “Oxyana.”
Although most of the roughly 1,400 residents of the Southern West Virginia town haven’t seen the film, the depictions in trailers and descriptions online infuriated many. They say the descriptions depicted a town with no hope, decimated and overwhelmed by drugs. They accused the filmmaker of skewing the facts in order to make a quick buck.
At the same time, they admit there is a drug problem in the county. Several residents called a community meeting to discuss the documentary and the area’s drug problem.
After learning about the community meeting, I decided I’d like to see the film and head to Oceana. The filmmaker declined to comment or send a copy, so I relied on the trailers, several online descriptions, a review from a West Virginia documentary filmmaker who had seen the film and a participant in the film who had also send the documentary. I also spent a day in the town, talking to law enforcement, business owners and a pastor.
It raised a larger question that lead to a three-part series: perception of Oxyana vs. reality of Oceana when it comes to prescription pill abuse in Southern West Virginia.
First, I wanted to look at the documentary itself and how the town felt about the documentary. Many residents thought statements made by people in the trailer were not true, and it was the filmmakers fault for putting them in the movie. At the same time, all of the participants are residents, which means some obviously feel there’s a problem.
In the second piece, I tried to find the facts and figures of prescription pill abuse in the area and Southern West Virginia as a whole. More than 65 people have died from drug-related incidents in the county since 2011. Babies are born addicted to drugs, typically Oxycodone, at a far higher rate in the local hospital than nationally. I also looked at the history of OxyContin usage in Appalachia, and how abuse of the addictive drug became so prevalent.
Finally, the third piece looks at possible solutions to the problems. Those include increased economic development efforts, which can help battle the rampant poverty of the area. It can also give people hope.
Since the series ran, there has been increased attention to the area and the problem. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and other officials attended the community meeting in Oceana, which attracted more than 200 local people. Local and national media outlets, including The Denver Post, picked up the stories as well.
Dave’s award represented the DFMie for May in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/West Virginia cluster of Digital First Media, which manages 70-plus daily newspapers across the country.
Other finalists in the cluster were Chris Dunn, Brandie Kessler and Samantha Dellinger of the York Daily Record for a map of local veterans memorials and L.A. Parker and Matthew Osborne of the Trentonian for live coverage of Operation Dreamlift, which took some local children with special needs to Disney World for a day.
Way to go Dave, and keep up the great work.

Congratulations to Zack Harold on a big award

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Back in December, when our newsroom first heard reports of a big explosion in Sissonville, our newsroom mobilized.

A few reporters and photographers went to the scene of what turned out to be a pipeline explosion so strong it melted the interstate. Others stayed in the office trying to make sense of what was happening and passing on the information to a very concerned local population.

In the latter category was reporter Zack Harold, who used a curation website called Storify to provide information in real time. Zack pulled social media updates from officials and reporters into one easy-to-read post meant to help people learn quickly what was happening.

His Storify effort received more than 4,000 views.

And I’m proud to say Zack has been honored nationally for the effort.

This week Digital First Media, which manages the Daily Mail’s newsroom along with more than 70 others around the country, announced that Zack was a national winner in its very first DFMies awards. He won the category for use of social media.

DFMie judges explained why this was a winner:

Zack Harold’s Storify of the Sissonville explosion is a great example of how journalists can use social media to provide useful information during a breaking news event. Harold showed a great deal of insight into what people would want to know during the event — where to go for shelter, which roads were closed, reports of any injuries — and what they might want to know afterwards, like how asphalt actually melted during the gas line explosion. He also guided those who weren’t familiar with Storify as a tool, by reminding them how to use it along the way. By giving multiple accounts of the accident, gathering pictures from social media, and pulling from the official emergency response messages, he was able to give a well-rounded picture of what was going on in real time.

Zack came to the Daily Mail as a green but eager recent graduate of the University of Charleston. When he interviewed, I remember him mentioning an interest in digital stuff. He was the guy who ran his church’s website, and he had an interest in video too. I thought those attributes were interesting but I didn’t give them a lot of thought.

Now, as more and more people are getting their news through their computers, their tablets or their cell phones, I certainly have a greater appreciation of those interests.

I’m pleased that Zack has taken an interest in alternative ways to spread the news and proud that he’s being recognized for it.

If you want to keep an eye on what Zack is doing, be sure to read our state government blog, the Capitol Notebook, which includes a weekly email newsletter, The Capitol Notebook Week in Review.

Or read his work in the newspaper, where Zack is one of the Daily Mail’s state government reporters.