“Deadline in Disaster,” a documentary filmed in the aftermath of the May 22, 2011, tornado, will be screened at 7 p.m. today at Central Christian Center, 415 S. Main St.
Produced by the Missouri Press Association and Scott Charton, of Charton Communications and Consulting, the film follows the staff of The Joplin Globe as it reports on an event by which it was affected. Page designer Bruce Baillie was among the 161 killed, and about a third of the newsroom’s staff lost homes.
Charton, a former reporter for The Associated Press, said the idea for the documentary came while he was watching an “NBC Nightly News” interview with Globe reporter Jeff Lehr, who lost his apartment home in the tornado.
“I recalled from my own career how tough it was going into a disaster zone as a journalist and staying out of the way while doing your job,” he said. “And to hear that (several Globe staff members) lost everything but soldiered on doing their job filled me with admiration.”
Charton contacted the Missouri Press Association, which quickly agreed to participate in the project. Charton and the MPA had previously worked together to produce 2008’s “Trustees for the Public,” about the 200-year history of Missouri’s newspapers.
“I then called and spoke briefly with (Globe Editor) Carol Stark,” Charton said. “I knew the staff was overwhelmed, and she asked what we needed. I said, ‘We just need access, and I hope your patience, as we try to tell a story about how you’re telling the story.’”
Co-producer Beth Pike, who already was in Joplin documenting the tornado’s aftermath for CBS News, and cinematographer Steve Hudnell were enlisted to help film the documentary. The Columbia residents also had worked on the press association’s previous project.
The film was in production throughout the summer and fall, and then edited during the winter months, Pike said. She said she and Hudnell compiled more than 60 hours of footage for the project.
“We were able to feel our way through the summer, and the script came out of the interviews,” Pike said. “We did know our ending; with the (first Joplin High School home) football game coming up, we knew that reporters would be there covering the game or there just to be a part of it.
“But we also knew we wanted to be a fly on the wall to show the daily job of a reporter. Certainly, we hope people realize what people behind the news do as part of their job, whether it’s news carriers showing up at midnight, advertising people. Those roles aren’t necessarily thought of when people read their newspaper. Hopefully, people will realize what goes into the product that shows up on their doorstep every day.”
Paraphrasing a University of Missouri journalism professor who appears in the documentary, Charton said there’s a “Hollywood image” some people have of reporters being uncaring.
“The essence of journalism at the community level is empathy with neighbors going through hard times,” he said. “In the case of The Joplin Globe, (the staff members) were suffering and coping right along with the community.”
TICKETS ARE FREE, and a limited number are left. They may be picked up at the Globe, 117 E. Fourth St. Doors will open for seating at 6 p.m. At 6:45 p.m., people without a ticket will be allowed to take any empty seats. A question-and-answer session will follow the one-hour documentary.