2015 Breaking News, Small Newsroom finalist

Amtrak 188 Crash


Beth Davidz, Chris Krewson, Shannon McDonald, Anna Orso, Mark Dent of Billy Penn

Billy Penn

Breaking News, Small Newsroom


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About the Project

Billy Penn’s small staff swung into action minutes after Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed in Philadelphia on the evening of May 12, in no small part thanks to Director of Product Beth Davidz, who was on the derailed train after spending a day in meetings at Billy Penn. After getting on-the-scene photos from Beth mere minutes after the crash, we spent the next week aggressively covering the story with our own reporters, while also curating developments reported by other news organizations. That combination allowed us to become a destination for news consumers from around the country who were seeking a reliable jumping-off point to keep up with an ever-changing story.

Billy Penn also made the story easier to follow by listing out, each day, what was now known and what remained unknown. This simple format was very popular among our readers. Billy Penn staff also profiled all those who died on the train, explained how crashes like this were investigated and how often they occurred, and published Beth’s compelling first-person account of the crash.

We were extremely proud of how our small staff stacked up against larger competitors on a story that emanated from a rail line that includes the mega-media cities of New York and Washington. In fact, in the first 24 hours after the crash, we were Philadelphia’s most active tweeter about the crash, with 126 tweets. Our coverage even attracted the attention of CNN’s Brian Stelter, who listed us first on a list of sites to follow for strong crash coverage.