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Missouri Flood Coverage – Van Buren

During the spring of 2017, towns across the state of Missouri saw record flooding and destruction. Editors at the Columbia Missourian felt there wasn’t enough attention being brought to these small communities, and within an hour, our newsroom met and created three teams to spread out across the state. Each team would have a reporter and a photographer. And in the case of my team, a videographer as well.

I left the newsroom with the photographer, Hannah Sturtecky, and reporter, Shane Sanderson, and we started driving towards Van Buren, population 831. With detours, it took us a bit over five hours, getting to the town just as the sun set.

After we found a motel and unloaded our gear, we walked around the streets to get a feel for the town, and to assess some of the damage (as much as we could in the dark). We spoke with some on-duty police officers, and got a lot of information about the town and its current operations and efforts. Shane met with a source, an elementary school teacher in the town, who was willing to show us around, and see the damage first-hand.

Wednesday, we spent the whole day walking and driving around town, meeting people, taking photos and doing interviews. By noon, we took a break, and sat down to do our things. Shane wrote his story, Hannah curated her photos, and I edited my video.

After we sent content back to the newsroom, we went to walk around downtown more, and talk to the local business owners about the reconstruction efforts. Hannah and I also visited the river to gather more visuals of the environment. To wrap up the day, I visited the acting community shelter, and streamed the daily community planning meeting on Facebook Live.

After a quick stop at the elementary school to check on a small electrical fire, we met back at the motel, and did some more organizational work. We were all really tired, and went to bed before 9. In the morning, we made one final stop back at the community center for when they were serving breakfast to the community, and I continued gathering interviews and talking with people. Then we hit the road, and went back to Columbia.

The following day, I began going through the gigabytes of footage and audio I gathered, and started editing together a bit of a longer-form piece to bring together stories told through the community.


Jon Doty