Dallas video journalist John Mone got a telephone call from a friend in the small town of West, Texas, whose house had just been shaking. He checked Twitter, saw reports that a fertilizer plant had exploded and called the Dallas desk. “Go,” editors told him. So he went.
Because he was so quick to get on the road, he was able to get to the heart of the disaster, gaining access to first responders, witnesses and triage tents before authorities were able to cordon off the area. Austin-based legislative relief staffer Michael Brick wasn’t far behind, and Lubbock correspondent Betsy Blaney worked the phones.
Mone hightailed it down Interstate 35 fully expecting to be detoured to clear the way for response units. As he approached West, encountering the acrid smell of ammonia in the air, he was directed away from the blast site and to a triage center where all the witnesses were gathered –- and access to them had not yet been locked down.
He hit the record button on his video camera and didn’t stop rolling. He located people waiting for word on the injured, eyewitnesses wandering around in a daze and someone who had captured iPhone video of the explosion. Later, when police began to block off the area, he sneaked down a side road on foot with his camera, walked a mile and was able to film damaged homes.
Mone shared his interviews with desk editors putting together the mainbar, and shared a byline with Brick.
See his video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RqnLR-ZWGU
The video of his witness interview was used 1,000 times by AP clients and, overall, video filed by Mone was taken by 2,600 times clients internationally. ABC News regularly used AP video in its updates.
For helping ensure the AP owned the story of the fertilizer explosion in a way no other news organization could match, Mone wins this week’s $300 Best of the States prize.