New Haven Register’s plane crash response wins Live Coverage DFMie

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The staff of the New Haven Register won the 2014 Live Coverage DFMie for its response to a plane crash in East Haven, Conn.

Connecticut Editor Matt DeRienzo’s nomination explains:

The New Haven Register newsroom’s coverage of a plane crashing into two homes in East Haven, CT, was the best naturally “digital first” response to a major news event that I’ve seen over the past two years, and that includes Newtown.

In addition to the success with Tout, the Register’s Media Center photo gallery on the crash has generated 259,000-plus page views. The speed of getting the gallery online was one key, then the breadth of the gallery carried us the next few days. Quick, early shots from reporters and a TV station we partner with were then supplemented by higher-quality, dramatic stuff from our staff photographers an hour or two after the crash.

Our ScribbleLive blog had as many as 1,200 people viewing at once and ended up with 46,000 unique viewers over the course of the day.

Beyond the main story of the details of the crash, (which killed a 13-year-old and 1-year-old girl who were inside one of the homes as their mother was out in their yard at the time, in addition to killing the pilot and his son), we quickly had compelling eyewitness accounts, including an interview with a neighbor who rushed into the burning home to help the mother try to find her kids.

We saw success in print, also, with a front page that won praise across the country and was posted outside the Newseum in Washington the next day.

The Register’s nomination also included links to the control tower audio and a timeline of Connecticut plane crashes.

Judges’ comments:

The DFMie for live coverage goes to the staff of the New Haven Register for their coverage of a plane crashing into two homes in East Haven. The live coverage of the crash really exemplified how a newsroom staff, trained to report news digitally, can cover live news in a sensitive and informative manner. Most impressive was the way this coverage seemed to be the work of a digitally first *team* rather than a single individual; a lot of the time, good digital live news coverage is the work of a single person. This isn’t, and it shows.

Managing Editor Mark Brackenbury explained how the Register covered the crash:

Two key things made the difference in our coverage. One was emptying out the newsroom once we realized the plane had hit a house. This was a lesson reinforced by Newtown. The other was using Tout to offer almost-live coverage. This was our first real test of Tout on a major breaking news story. It quickly became clear that Tout was made for situations like this.

Jenn Swift got the original tip on the crash and was among those who were first on the scene. Breaking news reporter Charlotte Adinolfi arrived very quickly, followed by Mary O’Leary and Evan Lips, and all used Tout to put viewers at the scene — without having to jump through any hoops. Other reporters and photographers soon joined to add to the coverage.

The breaking news team set up a liveblog, so the Touts, tweets and photos went directly there in an easy format for our site users.

This was one of two DFMies for the Register and one of four for the Connecticut newsrooms.

Other finalists

Other finalists for the Live Coverage DFMie were:

Jessica Keating and Gina Dvorak won the 2013 Live Coverage DFMie.

Steve Buttry

By Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry is Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media. He oversees our efforts to transform newsroom operations and culture to more effectively pursue our digital goals. His duties include responsibility for social media and community engagement. He has visited most DFM newsrooms personally, leading workshops and coaching editors and other journalists in following the Digital First approach.

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