Published: June 1, 2007 at 6:00 AM
I started Accident Watch on this site (click "Safety Data" on the nav bar above) in part due to my experience as a WDW cast member when a guest was seriously injured on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (due to a CM screw-up by an employee I had been assigned to train but refused to check out 'cause I felt he wasn't safe). The incident happened the night of the "Dick Tracy" movie premiere at Pleasure Island (wow, I'm dating myself there), but, in spite of the presence of dozens of journalists on property that night, not one report of the incident was ever published.
After I started TPI, I wanted to put accident reports on the site, but found that there was no federal database, as there was for airline incidents. So I decided to turn to you, the readers, to do that reporting for us.
It ended up winning the journalism industry's biggest award for websites, the Online Journalism Award, which was then awarded by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, the same school which awards the Pulitzers for newspaper stories. It was the first example, actually, of a "citizen journalism" project winning a major journalism award. That drew an immense amount of media attention to TPI, the issue of theme park safety and the concept of reader-driven online news reporting.
And that's where we are today: With thousands of readers reporting news from the parks, and parks doing a better job than ever (IMO) of keeping their parks clean and safe, in response. Yes, there remain failures. But I'm proud of the way that the Internet is empowering consumers to demand better service from theme parks. And, of the industry for responding.