By the ASCE Blog Editor and ASCE Award Committee
Congratulations Daniel Moore, the 2015 recipient of ASCE-Pittsburgh’s Journalism Award. “As a journalist, it's an honor to receive recognition from an organization of experts,” says Daniel. “The award to me is recognition that I was not only able to appeal to a broad readership but also successful in reaching the people who are immersed in the topic on a daily basis.”
Daniel grew up in the hills of southern Ohio and graduated with a journalism degree from Kent State University in 2014. He has previously interned at the Spokane Spokesman-Review in Washington State, the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., and the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky.
Currently, Daniel covers energy, transportation and labor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He’s written a wide range of stories about infrastructure, including how the power grid will evolve to meet environmental regulations, how different cities approach sewer overflows, and how railroad track inspections can improve.
“I'm most proud of my story on how railroad track is inspected and how inspectors are sometimes pushed to do quicker inspections when rail traffic is heavy,” Daniel explains. “As we've seen across the country, a missed rail defect is a matter of life-and-death when it comes to derailments of crude oil trains. I analyzed federal accident data and found track defects were the most common cause of derailments. I then spent weeks gathering track inspector sources– on- and off-the-record –who could verify some of the on-the-ground issues, such as arguing with dispatchers about the need to inspect a section of rail.”
Many journalists would consider such research a tedious task. However, Daniel is willing to put in the effort to breakdown the complexities of everyday infrastructure challenges.
“Infrastructure is so ubiquitous that it's largely overlooked. Some people even think it's boring,” he says. “But that is precisely why I think it's important to bring to the public consciousness. For example, people may see trains carrying crude oil when they go to work every day, but what are the track inspectors doing to ensure safe transport? And what are the business models driving how many oil trains are put on the tracks? These things are critically important to being an informed citizen because it affects everyone.”
Of course, learning about the details of an engineering complication is never easy, and to break it down into article for the public is even harder. Says Daniel, “The biggest challenge for me is, quite frankly, learning the science behind the stories enough to write it in a broadly appealing way. Of course, that's also what makes my job fun. I always try to have someone walk me through a piece of infrastructure or technology in person so that I can pull visual details and get an idea of scale. That way I can describe it in terms readers can understand.”
The Pittsburgh Section of ASCE will also be nominating Daniel for the National ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award in September. Since 1994, this award is presented annually at the Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Award Gala in Washington, D.C. in March. The award honors newspaper journalists for outstanding articles that enhance public understanding of the role and impact of civil engineering in designing solutions for clean water, transportation, the environment, and other public works projects. In 2006, the award was expanded to include journalists and producers from English-language, general-interest regional and national newspapers, radio and television stations, magazines, and electronic and Web-based news outlets.
The news media wield tremendous impact on public opinion about civil engineers and civil-engineering-related issues. For example, news coverage can influence vital infrastructure legislation, licensing laws and building codes. Coverage also can affect talented young people's decisions to pursue careers in civil engineering.
Through this annual national award, ASCE hopes to encourage continued coverage of civil engineering and related issues as a means of engaging the public in civil engineering initiatives impacting their community.
The Pittsburgh Section is proud that Jon Schmitz from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won the ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award in 2012, and is proud to nominate Daniel Moore for the prestigious award this year.