Outlet: Pioneer Press
Journalist: Kraig Odden
Kraig Odden of the Pioneer Press was done with his evening shift when late-night breaking news launched him on the story that won the February DFMie for the Midwest cluster.
Editor Mike Burbach explained in his nomination:
Kraig Odden, who completed his news-editing and production shift in the middle of the night and jumped on a big water-main break near his apartment in downtown St. Paul. He reported, wrote, shot still pictures and video. Assigning editor Phil Pina, deputy editor Jen Westpfahl and managing editor Chris Clonts threw in to make sure it all got up.
As Clonts noted in a follow-up note to the staff: “Did I mention that all this happened after 1 a.m.? That’s normally a low-traffic time of night, but this time, people affected by and who had heard about the situation were looking for answers. Here’s what a few said via Facebook:
“Thank you for reporting this. A lot of Saint Paul residents waiting to hear. City’s emergency line only has voicemail which is ‘full.’ “ — Rob Schreiber.
“I’m glad to see it reported, period. Because I didn’t know what happened.” — Mary Ingold.
“I made some coffee before I read the notice online. I’m probably going to die now.” — Marchelle Greenlee.
Kraig Odden got to bed at about 4 a.m., then was awakened at about 7 by a robo-call from the city telling him not to drink the water, a fact that he promptly added to the story.
Judges praised the hustle and execution:
Kraig went above and beyond the call of duty in his print and digital coverage. The videos were short and sweet and caught the raging waters as the break was happening. For one reporter at this hour (1 a.m.) to do so thorough a job with a print story, still photos and video, one can only say, “Wow.” This is true dedication and know-how in action and a credit to the craft of journalism, and judging by the reader reaction, they agreed.
I felt it was very informative going beyond what happened that day, letting the reader know about other main breaks that had occurred previously. Good use of videos, however an interview of how it affected someone may have been nice. Nice use of photos within the story and use of Facebook to get the word out to locals about what is going on. Also including information about what residents should do.
I think the best part is the fact that this story could have just been treated as your average breaking news story on an unfortunate incident, instead it was investigative and very easy to read. It’s important to include numbers and past facts to inform the public with knowledge of how to react in this certain situation. I must add the photos were great, I always admire a photographer who thinks creatively. The lighting and temperature of the photos really caused for an eerie counter to the rest of the story. I also like the addition of the video, it allowed a sense of awareness and really dialed up on the extreme nature of the flooding.
The other Midwest finalist was Laura Kessel of the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, for her fifth annual Lighten Up community weight-loss engagement project.