In April 2013, I was dispatched to West, Texas to cover the massive fertilizer plant explosion that kiled 15, injured at least 300 and destroyed hundreds of homes. I was "embedded" in West for the first week and a half, but I went on to cover the explosion's aftermath for months.
The Dallas Morning News competed with a slew of national media, but Columbia Journalism Review singled out The News for its "rich mix of coverage" and for being "the one outlet that was getting it routinely right." For my work in West, I won first place in the 2013 Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Association short features category. I was also part of a team that placed first for team effort and second for community service.
My work in West culminated with a multiple-month project called "Through The Fire," in which colleague Dave Tarrant and I chronicled the night of the blast from the first responder's perspective. We overcame a "No Press" sign on the West Fire Department's door and ultimatley interviewed more than 20 first responders. Nieman Storyboard "pinned" our story as recommended reading and later used it in a narrative case study comparing different stories on the same topic.
Here is a sample of my work in West:
Through The Fire, The Dallas Morning News, August 18, 2013
Lit by beer signs and filled with old friends, tavern in West becomes a haven for the grieving, The Dallas Morning News, April 24, 2013
Some say West blast 'rushed' nursing home patients deaths, The Dallas Morning News, June 18, 2013
Family of arrested West man says feds should clear him of ties to plant explosion, The Dallas Morning News, July 22, 2013