Congratulations to the Daily Mail’s Billy Wolfe and Matt Murphy, who have earned appreciation from our community and from fellow journalists for their project to distribute pictures that were left behind in 2000 after Lindsay’s Studio in Charleston’s East End shut down.
Wolfe, an assistant city editor, and Murphy, who covers local government, were named winners of Digital First Media’s February awards program for the region that includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia.
More importantly, they have provided a great service for members of our community by reuniting families with photos that might otherwise have gotten lost.
Murphy and Wolfe, along with staffers like Ashley B. Craig and Zack Harold, have gathered up boxes of photos, taken pictures of hundreds of the original images and uploaded them onto the Charleston Daily Mail’s Facebook page. Many of the photos have also appeared in the daily newspaper, where they’ve been popular content.
Residents who identify friends and family have come in to our office to claim the pictures.
The project began with a germ of an idea from a Charleston Urban Renewal Authority meeting: “Thousands of photos of Kanawha Valley residents have been found in a building purchased by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, and officials want to connect as many of them to their subjects as possible. “
The idea sprouted into a story and then snowballed.
“Basically, I was interested in doing the story after hearing about the studio during a CURA meeting,” Murphy said. “Either the same day or the day after I wrote the story, Billy came up with the idea to try to get some of the photos from the studio to put on Facebook. Billy’s the one who contacted Ric Cavender (East End Main Street director) and after Billy started the project, I got in touch with CURA director Jim Edwards to get back into the building.
“When the story ran, we had both 1A photos claimed the same day. We also had the photo of a little girl in a follow-up story that week that was claimed the day the story ran in the paper. “
The Digital First Media judges — fellow journalists — thought Matt and Billy were crazy. But they said so in an admiring way:
With limited resources and busy beats, it is hard to argue with any reporter or news agency that shies away from seemingly labor intensive projects where the impact is somewhat unknown. But the Charleston Daily Mail used ingenuity to take what would seem like a daunting task and turned it into an impactful, digital project that touches the very core of their readers.Using Facebook as the medium, the staff created a digital database of their community’s past with these photos and, in essence, collaborated with their readers to tell this story. Doing it in such a way made a great project possible, when traditional methods may have needed too many resources. Smartly done and presented.
Another judge said:
I definitely have to go with the Charleston Daily Mail submission. It’s an outstanding cross-level project, utilizing both time-honored newspaper tactics and social media angles. It’s a useful community effort, but still engaging enough to grab the attention of people who don’t live in the area. I think it’s an excellent example of what journalism can be in the Digital First world.
Murphy said the effort was worthwhile and grew because the original duo got valuable help.
“Our original intent was to put a couple hundred or so photos online, but it’s grown, especially because Zack and Ashley have helped A LOT. As of today about 99 of the photos have been claimed out of about 1,200 we’ve cataloged so far.”
The Daily Mail’s role in the distribution is winding down, with a grand finale expected during a popular upcoming community event.
“We’ll be organizing a public viewing/claiming event during the East End Yard Sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10,” Murphy said. “From there, we don’t know. The library might house them at some point.
It’s been a fun journey into the personal histories of our town’s residents and a popular community engagement project. All in all, a success.
Brad McElhinny is the editor and publisher of The Charleston Daily Mail. Brad McElhinny is editor and publisher of The Charleston Daily Mail. I’m a Parkersburg native and a Marshall graduate. I live in Charleston with my wife — we’ll call her “Karen” — my two little girls, an easily excitable terrier, an aging obese cat and, now, a kitten named “Sweetie.” Read more from this author