Journalism Students Launch Web Site to Tell Stories of Katrina Victims

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Newswise — West Virginia University Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism students and faculty today (Dec. 1) launched an interactive, multimedia website devoted to documenting the stories of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who sought refuge at Preston County's Camp Dawson and are now living in West Virginia.

The project marks a first for the school and puts its students on the cutting-edge of web development, multimedia and convergence journalism. The site is located at http://katrinaproject.journalism.wvu.edu/ .

The web site, "Starting Over: Loss and Renewal in Katrina's Aftermath," includes photo essays, written stories, multimedia pieces and documentary footage. The pieces explore how the victims of the late August hurricane are coping with tragedy and beginning new lives more than a thousand miles from home.

The site tells the stories of such survivors as Greg Avery and Glenda Perkins, who after a 10-year courtship, decided to get married at Camp Dawson and have since settled in Morgantown.

"When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, students at our school quickly raised cash for the American Red Cross effort. It was what they could do then," said Assistant Professor Bonnie Stewart, the Katrina Project director. "A few weeks later, when more than 300 storm victims came to Camp Dawson - less than an hour away from WVU - faculty and students knew these were stories that had to be told."

Students and faculty began recording, videotaping, photographing and writing about the people who came from New Orleans to Kingwood to seek help.

The multimedia project explores not only how the lives of victims of the storm have been changed, but also how the lives of volunteers and the students taking part in the project have changed.

The project also serves as a way to help students learn to work as teams, combining news writing, video, photography and the web to tell stories in a multimedia presentation.

"These are skills that our students will need as they enter 21st century newsrooms, where media convergence is happening more and more each day," said Interim Dean Maryanne Reed.

This project builds on programs such as the three-year Cancer Project, in which students and faculty produced an Emmy-winning documentary and nationally acclaimed book and photo essays on cancer patients at the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.


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