West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism students are receiving praise from local and national news organizations for their reports on the April 5 mine explosion in Montcoal, in which 29 miners died and two others were injured.

Visual journalism sophomore Codi Yeager of Maple City, Mich., and news editorial junior Travis Crum of Williamson, filed online stories for AOL News, while broadcast senior Chip Fontanazza, of York, Pa., produced radio reports and posted Web updates for West Virginia MetroNews, a statewide media network.

All three students were responsible for covering press conferences, taking photos, conducting interviews, writing their own pieces and communicating with producers and editors.

In an e-mail to Yeager, AOL executive news editor, Marty Steinberg wrote:
“Thanks for your important contributions to covering the mine disaster story for us!” Steinberg added “You successfully pulled this off despite extreme stress, not the least of which was covering one of the biggest stories of the moment.”

Assistant Professor Bonnie Stewart and Assistant Professor and Shott Chair of Journalism Lois Raimondo remained in Morgantown but offered guidance via email to the budding journalists. Stewart said despite the many obstacles they faced, the students persevered and proved themselves as media professionals.

“For them to get in their cars and drive to a remote part of the state to cover a national breaking news story takes a lot of courage, said Stewart. “They didn’t have cell phone service, Internet was limited and they were basically on their own yet they managed to produce beautiful, professional work.”

Fontanazza, who was in Montcoal for five days, agreed that covering the disaster was challenging but it also gave him the confidence to continue his pursuit of a career in journalism.

“I have a better idea of what it’s like to cover a story for a national news organization,” said Fontanazza. “You see the Associated Press, NBC and CNN—they’re constantly working and updating they’re websites. I was doing the same thing but on a smaller scale. It made me realize that I do have the work ethic and ability to work for a major network someday.”

All three students have returned to Morgantown. Some of their work is available at the following links.

Travis Crum:

Codi Yeager:

Chip Fontanazza:


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CONTACT: Kimberly Brown, School of Journalism
304-293-3505 ext. 5403