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SOJ to host panel on Charleston chemical spill

On Jan. 9, some 300,000 residents of the Charleston, W.Va. area feared for their safety when thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical leaked into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply. Journalists covered the story relying on traditional “boots-on-the-ground” reporting and using social media. Through their reporting and engagement, they held industry and government officials accountable, provided immediate updates on the developing story, and gathered information from people affected by the disaster.

On March 24, the West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism will present, “From Beats to Tweets: Media Coverage of the Elk River Spill,” a moderated panel to address local and national coverage of the event and to examine how crisis coverage has changed in today’s 24/7 digital media environment. The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. It is free and open to the public.

The event is sponsored by the Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series and is part of the School’s The Future of Media—NOW! series, which brings to campus professionals who are reinventing journalism, media and 21st century communications.

About the Panelists


David BoucherDavid Boucher (@Dave_Boucher1) is a reporter covering the Capitol for the Charleston Daily Mail and has covered events surrounding the spill, the EPA and Freedom Industries’ bankruptcy. Previously, Boucher was an education reporter for the Daily Mail. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2010, he was a staff writer for Gratiot County Herald in Ithaca, Mich., and Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville, Ky. 

David GutmanDavid Gutman (@davidlgutman) is a reporter for The Charleston Gazette and has covered the chemical spill, the government response and Freedom Industries’ bankruptcy. Previously, Gutman covered West Virginia state government for the Associated Press. He attended Colby College and the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. 
April Kaull

April Kaull (@april_kaull) is a news anchor for West Virginia Media based at WOWK-TV in Charleston, W.Va.,where she has worked since 2000. Since joining WOWK, Kaull has served as executive producer and anchor for “West Virginia Tonight Live” and vice president of news operations for West Virginia Media. Kaull is a 1995 graduate of the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism. 


Ashton MarraAshton Marra (@AshtonMarra) covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio. During the legislative session, she focuses on the state Senate, providing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house.Previously, Marra was a production assistant for “Good Morning America” where she also produced several pieces for broadcast. Marra is a 2012 graduate of the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism.


Roger MayRoger May(@walkyourcamera) is a documentary photographer who was commissioned by The Guardian to photograph the aftermath of the chemical leak. Mingo County, W.Va., native publishes work on his blog, walkyourcamera.com, focusing on the people and places of Appalachia, particularly southern West Virginia. Currently based in Raleigh, N.C., May is a part-time instructor and student at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. 

Dr. Eric WaggonerDr. Eric Waggoner (@ericwaggoner) is a Charleston, W.Va., native and an associate professor of American literature and cultural studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He also serves as chair of the English Department. Waggoner’s recent post about the effects of the spill on his blog, “Cultural Slagheap,” has gone viral after it was featured on CNN and The Huffington Post.

School of Journalism Teaching Assistant Professor Emily Hughes Corio will moderate the panel, which is sponsored by the Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series. Prior to joining WVU in 2011, Corio was assistant news director for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Corio’s work has aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PRI’s “The Takeaway” and the CBC. She recently earned the Broadcast Education Association’s “Best of Festival” award in the faculty audio competition.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting plans to tape the discussion and broadcast it statewide at a later date.

Join the conversation: #wvchemleak

Read the official release on WVU Today.