The Water & Wastes Digest (WWD) team is honored to receive a Jesse H. Neal award for its coverage of Hurricane Harvey. This award is considered the “Pulitzer of the business press,” and the team is excited and grateful for the recognition.
After learning about winning, the editorial team wanted to make a post to pull back the curtain and give you an idea of what its experience was like covering the hurricane and its effects.
Last August, WWD underwent some editorial restructuring. Bob Crossen, Amy McIntosh and Lauren Baltas took on new and greater roles for magazines for the parent company, Scranton Gillette Communications (SGC). And they also were taken under the wing of a new editorial director, Bill Wilson. Wilson has almost 20 years of experience in business-to-business journalism covering infrastructure, and when he became part of our team, he pushed us to reach for the next level of content creation and become elite journalists in our industries—usually by regularly saying that we were going to “elevate the game.”
We took this to heart and as soon as our transitions began in earnest, news of Hurricane Harvey was mounting. We scrapped the entire October issue and began calling facilities in Houston affected by the storms. On the website and social media platforms, Baltas posted regular updates on the effects of wind, rain and flooding in Texas, and she also covered the Arkema plant explosions for the print issue. The team also filled eight tabloid pages with photos, informational tables and text in print—more than 6,000 words when all was said and done. Editors listened in and asked questions in phone press conferences, contacted local water and wastewater facilities for their perspective and spoke with manufacturers about how they prepare stock to replace any broken equipment following disastrous events like that in Houston.
To add more complications, Crossen was on a trip on the west coast talking to potential authors about editorial content while trying get the issue to the printer. One of those days, he was typesetting his editorial letter from the back seat of a rental car connected to the phone of SGC’s vice president of marketing for internet access.
Then one week after WEFTEC, the team traveled to Houston and visited with the 69th Street Wastewater Treatment Plant in Houston, the Deer Park Water Treatment Plant in Deer Park, Texas, and Homer’s Soft Water in Rosenberg, Texas. All those visits included Facebook live video and social media postings conducted by McIntosh, video footage shot by Baltas and video interviews conducted by Crossen and McIntosh from those sites. All the video accumulated in Houston was used to develop a five-part video series last November and December.
We are grateful for all the individuals who helped us make this coverage possible and for the many people who agreed to be interviewed. Special thanks to our friends in Houston—Sidney Bomer, Tomas Martinez, Raymond Romdeo, Nicholas Cook and Kevin Davitt. We could not have covered this event as extensively without your hospitality and the cooperation of you and your coworkers. Thank you sincerely for your time.