On The Ground: Student Journalists Seek Answers At Scene of Train Derailment

Professor Leads Team of Storytellers to East Palestine

If experience is the best teacher, then a handful of Kent State University's student journalists recently got the experience of a lifetime when they traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, to cover a train derailment that is getting attention across the country. 

Professor Sue Zake, who serves as the faculty newsroom advisor for the School of Media and Journalism, led some of the students on a class trip the to the derailment scene, about 60 miles east of the Kent Campus so that students could learn what it's like to cover a major news event. The Norfolk Southern train came off the tracks Feb. 3 leading to multiple chemical spills and an evacuation of many residents.

While members of the class interviewed some residents of East Palestine, student media members also made additional trips to gather content for their outlets.

"It’s not often you get to cover something like this as a student journalist, and I am so thankful for KentWired/TV2 and all of the journalistic opportunities that have come my way while still in college," said Alexandria Manthey, a junior from Oregon, Ohio, and reporter for TV2, the student-run TV news outlet.

Student Journalist Alexandria Manthey adjusts her camera while covering the East Palestine Train Derailment

Student media members were able to interview residents of East Palestine, observe the impact of the derailment on the community and participate in interviews and press conferences alongside their professional counterparts.

Their coverage helped provide first-person accounts to students following the derailment in Kent.

Zake noted that while she has covered multiple train derailments during her many years as a journalist, East Palestine was clearly the worst. 

Student Journalists interview residents of East Palestine
(Above) Student reporters in the Student Media Practicum in Journalism class talk with East Palestine residents Jim Wilson, left, and Lenny Glavan inside the East Palestine Memorial Public Library. The men shared their families' experiences about how the catastrophic train derailment has affected their lives. Students in the class will be reporting on the accident's aftermath through the spring semester. Jeff Fruit, former director of the School of Media and Journalism and a retired Kent State professor who lives in the area, stands behind the two men.


"I was able to ask a question at the press conference right after someone from Associated Press, which was really cool as a student journalist to be getting the same opportunities as those on a national level," Manthey said. "I loved to see fellow journalists at work, and it was a great way to network with those in the field while also covering what's important to our audience here in northeast Ohio."

Student journalist Jacob Brooks (top photo) also participated in the trip on behalf of TV2 and covered a portion of the controlled burn when responders burned off some of the chemicals involved in the train derailment, Zake said.

The students' East Palestine coverage was featured along with other student media news in KentWired's daily news email, which is available to members of the Kent State community.


Photos courtesy of Sue Zake.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 7, 2023 01:42 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 9, 2023 10:36 AM