Through his years of reporting on public service issues, Derek Catron of the Daytona Beach News-Journal knew the number of house fires in his community had plummeted through the past few decades. Meanwhile, the costs associated with his area’s fire departments continued to climb.

Catron wondered if that trend held in other communities, as well.

It certainly did, he came to find after an in-depth investigation made possible by GateHouse’s Pinnacle reporting project, an initiative that pairs one top journalist each quarter with an experience writing coach. Catron spent one month developing a comprehensive package of stories that dug into the numbers, as well as offering local flavor that would illustrate why this has been such a touchy subject.

The result was “Where’s the Fire,” a four-story package that delivers how firefighting has evolved as America’s needs for the service have changed.

“In an era when ‘do more with less’ is a guiding mantra for business as well as government, firefighters stand apart, like Boy Scouts seeking to ‘be prepared’ in a world demanding greater efficiency from every walk of life,” Catron begins his four-part story.

Using his extensive research, he not only highlights an ongoing problem concerning efficiencies within city and county fire departments but offers insights on how this happened over time and what can be done in the future.

The story’s national importance made it an ideal Pinnacle project and since its unveiling, a handful of GateHouse newsrooms across the country have used its elements in their localized reporting of the topic.

The Center for News and Design contributed to the project’s overall success by providing an interactive design featuring charts and graphs that enhance Catron’s reporting. You can read the story and browse these digital component here.


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