Broadcast News Documentary

Previous documentaries

May 2004



University of Delaware students of COMM/POSC 425 present their 3-month-long broadcast news investigation into the state of disaster readiness in Delaware. The student documentarians go beyond threats of terrorism and weather to explore everyday dangers challenging Delaware's readiness. They meet families living in the shadow of the nation's second-largest nuclear power plant. They discover unscreened cargo at the Port of Wilmington, and dangerous chemicals rolling past student dormitories and classrooms on freight trains dozens of times a day, while similar cargo is carefully routed around lawmakers in Washington, DC. Student journalists interview first responders and authorities at every level of government, discovering how little is known about these everyday threats.

“Ready... or Not?” won First Prize in a 2007 national competition conducted by the National Federation of Press Women. Earlier, it won First Prize at the state level, in a competition sponsored by the Delaware Press Association. In the state competition, judges called the program “well researched,” “credible,” “well photographed and well edited” and “informative.”

Selected highlights reported by the students in this program:

  1. BulletPublic safety and emergency preparedness officials in the City of Newark, New Castle County and at the University are unaware when hazardous freight is passing through northern Delaware.

  2. BulletProspective UD students and parents are not informed of the hazardous cargo carried daily by 20-30 freight trains passing within a few feet of freshman dormitories, homes and businesses in Newark. Similar cargo, on the same tracks, has been re-routed around Washington, DC to protect Congress.

  3. BulletHundreds - perhaps thousands - of cargo containers arriving in Delaware from abroad through the Port of Wilmington are not screened for hazardous contents such as radiation bombs, chemicals or explosives.

  4. BulletRealtors in Delaware don’t inform new residents of their proximity to a nuclear power plant; residents often discover the situation only when they receive warnings to obtain iodine pills in case of a nuclear accident. Delaware’s top emergency management official calls those pills a “psychological help.”

  5. BulletEmergency sirens near the nuclear power plant could be silent for up to 30 minutes after a radiation incident.

  6. BulletAuthorities expect thousands of UD students to find out about a possible disaster through the campus “grapevine” rather than through the state’s emergency notification system. Thousands of UD students, many of whom use out-of-state cell phones, would not be reached by that system; they are not informed to register their phones with the state.

  7. BulletEmergency responders in Delaware are specially equipped for nuclear and chemical hazards, with decontamination gear, audio announcements and clothing.

  8. BulletA disaster preparedness plan prepared for the City of Newark makes no mention of hazardous chemicals carried on trains passing through the city and around the university daily.


May, 2006

Colleen Aungst

Chelsea Bordeaux

Marissa Boudreau

Damien Dittberner

Sarah Dussault

Kristin Gagliardi

Lauren Kroesser

Ginger Lennon

Nick Meidanis

Rob Parks

Alla Ponomareva

Julie Reinicker

Sara Satullo

Meredith Sullivan

Luke Wallis

Under the guidance of UD Distinguished Journalist in Residence Ralph Begleiter

reported and produced by university of delaware

communication and political science students