Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Columbia Missourian delivered on breaking news explosion story, mixing old and new media

with 5 comments

As Ryan Sholin aptly pointed out the other day, in media-blogging it’s best not to do too much navel-gazing on your own news organization. But the Columbia Missourian, my alma mater of newspapers, covered breaking news yesterday in a way that I think is worthy of a post.

I put my reporter cap back on yesterday. Around 11.15 a.m., an explosion razed an entire house in the East Campus neighborhood of Columbia, Mo. In the explosion and the fire that ensued, Carl Sneed, 87, died, and his wife, Merna, 84, was gravely injured. A firefighter was also injured.

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It was just 3 blocks away from my house, which actually shook from the blast. I honestly first thought it was my roommate once again slamming doors, but the sirens of fire trucks and ambulances told me otherwise. I rushed over there, though to his great credit, my roommate, photographer Kuba Wuls, got there even sooner and got some very telling pictures.

I called the Missourian and what ensued was an awesome example of teamwork on a local breaking news story. Our friendly neighborhood citizen journalism team, led by Clyde Bentley, practically a neighbor of the Sneeds, right away put together a Flickr gallery and got information from neighbors. One such neighbor submitted pictures that helped us identify the hero of the day, a firefighter who pulled Merna Sneed from the fire. We had a breaking news burst very quickly on the Web site and many updates throughout the day. The full story at the end of the day and the many sidebars painted a much more complete picture than the competing paper’s. We sent news alerts via text messages. We had reporters and editors working on site, in the newsroom and at the hospital. Convergence reporters brought back video, Kuba brought back wonderful pictures, and I was equipped with my own camera, too. (See below my first ever published picture. The slideshow above is a mix of published and unpublished ones.) See the whole coverage at

Rescue workers wheel Merna Sneed to an ambulance that took her to University Hospital. She had severe burns over more than 30% of her body. ISABELLE ROUGHOL/MISSOURIAN

The most unusual thing that came out of that day’s coverage was an interesting twist on new media meets old media. Everyone in East Campus was asking questions all day. But East Campus is an odd neighborhood with a large student population and just as large a population of elderly people, who may not have the instinct (or even the Internet connection) to check the Web for more information. The Missourian’s Saturday edition being a weekly printed on Thursday nights, we had no way to get the news in print out to the people in time. (Note: We are also cursed with the Friday breaking news.) So we made one up. I use “we” loosely because I’m sure the credit goes to someone; I just wasn’t around when the idea came up so I couldn’t tell you who. Anyways, the Missourian had launched in partnership with the East Campus Neighborhood Association an email newsletter about the neighborhood. We revamped the idea for print. We designed a one-page, front-and-back newsletter with excerpts of our Web coverage, made 300 copies and 8 of us hit the streets, fixing the newsletter to doorknobs with rubber bands.

What really matters in this story is the tragedy of an old couple being stolen their right to a peaceful, quiet death. I’m usually wary about covering such tragedies because there is a fine line between serving the needs of your community and just plain preying on victims. I don’t mean to celebrate this day as an achievement in journalism, and I hope it’s not what this post sounds like. But in the end, I think we served our community right yesterday: when so many people were worried about what was going on and wanted to share who Mr. Sneed was, the Missourian delivered.

The work, of course, continued today. In no particular order and unfortunately not exhaustively, here are some of the people to be credited for these two days’ outstanding work: managing editor Reuben Stern, editor Katherine Reed, editor Clyde Bentley, assistant editor Katie Fretland, reporter Sean Sposito, reporter Matt Harris, news editor and Web site wizzard Jake Sherlock, photographer Kuba Wuls, photography director Rie Woodward, photo editing staff (don’t even know all your names, I’m so sorry), photographer Katie Barnes, editor Liz Heitzman, editor Jeanne Abbott, production chief Joy Mayer, convergence editor Mark Lewis, reporter Jonathon Braden, reporter Annie Harp, reporter Lauren Fredman, convergence editor Beth Androuais, convergence reporter Jenn Herseim, convergence editor Jennifer Leong, circulation yesmen Rob Weir and Bruce Moore, photographer Joshua A. Bickel, citizen journalist Jackie Kreigh … (Yes, we are a huge newsroom, and that helped.) Those are only the ones I personally saw work or whose credit I could find on the Web site. I know there are plenty more. I am both proud and humbled to be a part of this team.


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 03:30

5 Responses

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  1. This was definitely worth a post, thanks for sharing.

    Btw, the link for the Missourian doesn’t go to the site.

    Greg Linch

    Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 04:55

  2. Thanks, fixed it. Apparently, WP doesn’t like links without http://


    Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 04:59

  3. Nice work, Isabelle!


    Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 14:27

  4. That’s great. I love how you made the newsletter and delivered it! Fantastic.


    Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 15:01

  5. […] credit, my roommate, photographer kuba Wuls, got there even sooner and got some very telling … – Questions Remain from Explosion – Improve Your ViewInvestigators stand near the remains […]

    kuba wuls

    Sunday, 20 April, 2008 at 20:55

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