WINDSOR, NC—Still struggling to cope in the aftermath of an F3 tornado that ripped through town last week, citizens expressed gratitude to this newspaper for its meritorious in-depth coverage of the tragedy, lauding the publication's ability to deliver aggressive reporting while remaining sensitive to the victims' humanity.
Though the tornado claimed 46 lives and caused more than $40 million in property damage, many in this devastated community told reporters Monday they could take solace in the fact that such a responsible news organization was on site to contribute hard-hitting yet pointed commentary that skillfully captured every nuance of the storm's ruinous toll.
"Beginning with the speed and accuracy of their initial coverage, you could tell this newspaper cared only about reporting the story fairly and thoroughly, and was not interested in exploiting our suffering for cheap spectacle or personal gain," said former bank teller Amber Devoe, who later grew emotional talking about The Onion's touching three-part feature on her family's plight. "They truly illuminated a significant and complex event with lucid writing and a sensitive presentation."
"I've lost everything—my home, my job, everything," Devoe added. "But this newspaper's unwavering commitment to first-rate journalism has given me the courage to continue on."
Though townspeople remained in a state of shock, they spent most of Monday applauding the news organization's "poignant," "classy," and "often brilliant" coverage of the storm. Explaining that they never felt taken advantage of, citizens said they hoped the newspaper would return repeatedly for follow-up stories, adding that they already missed watching reporters do their fantastic work.
In addition, every single person interviewed agreed that reading the newspaper's coverage of the event was the one thing that gave them comfort.
"With my world crumbling around me, the paper's consistent display of journalistic excellence and its evenhanded touch of humanity was something to look forward to," said Roy Brusckewicz, 56, standing by the splintered remains of his old trailer, which he said was "artfully profiled" in the newspaper's Onion Magazine. "I appreciated the special emphasis they placed on investigating all aspects of the story, from the tornado's human toll to its effect on the local economy and culture. Really great stuff."
The news organization, with 3.6 million print readers in 11 cities nationwide and a website that attracts more than 7.5 million unique visitors every month, is not just confined to traditional media: Its expansive social networking presence and recent launch of mobile apps are a testament to the newspaper's embrace of new technologies and its willingness to innovate in tandem with the changing face of journalism, sources reported.
To date, the newspaper has received a number of awards for its excellence, with one notable exception.
"Typically, after the reporting of such a tragedy, praise is heaped onto less deserving publications, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune," said livestock farmer Colin Atkins, whose livelihood was decimated by the twister. "This town will feel the effects of this tragedy for decades, but the real injustice would be if those piss-poor excuses for newspapers I just mentioned didn't lose readers and precious ad dollars due to their incompetent coverage."
Atkins, who lost both his sons in the tornado, continued to rail against such media organizations, suggesting that while other reporters might get more attention with their flashy journalism degrees and their bylines, the writers of this newspaper are the only ones who truly empathized with the community's plight.
"All we did was get hit by a tornado—they're the real heroes," he said. "In recognition of their public service, they deserve some sort of prestigious national prize in journalism."
Added Atkins, "You know, if such a thing exists."