On June 23, a devastating flood hit West Virginia. The powerful storms caused 23 deaths and left 44 counties in a state of emergency. Journalism senior Jennifer Gardner, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, is a reporting intern at the Charleston Gazette-Mail this summer.
Gardner has spent the past few weeks covering the tragedy. Although the stories have been emotionally challenging for her, the experience has given Gardner an opportunity to practice her craft through traditional news reporting and new forms of storytelling.
She spoke with communications assistant Kayla Kuntz about her work.
Kayla Kuntz: How did you get involved with the flood coverage?
Jennifer Gardner: Lecturer David Smith messaged me and suggested that we do a 360° video of the flood and pitch it to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The Gazette-Mail had never done 360° video, and I was nervous about suggesting the idea, but Co-Editor-in-Chief Rob Byers approved it. He thought it was a cool concept.
KK: What was it like going into the flood-ravaged areas?
JG: The flood damage was massive — unlike anything I had ever seen before. I was intrigued by everything that was happening around me and the stories that people were telling me.
In that moment, I felt like I couldn’t do anything to help them [the flood victims] because there was so much damage. Those people have lost everything — their homes, their family members, their friends. It was an eerie feeling.