OPINION: Bodette Column: Putting out news sans power
Feb 24, 2013 (St. Cloud Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Good morning, St. Cloud area.
I'm never taking electricity for granted again. I have said this before, but I'm saying it again.
About 8:20 p.m on Feb. 16, we began losing power in the Times Media building. Apparently, a transformer went out in our northside neighborhood, causing an outage for thousands of customers, including us.
Xcel told us that it would take until 1 a.m. to finish repairs. However, our deadline for the Sunday edition is 11:10 p.m., and we had loads of news pages in progress when the partial outage began.
Initially, our desktop computers, televisions and other small stuff worked. Big items, including heat and air intake, stopped. Half the lights in the newsroom were working.
Our internal computer servers went to battery backup, which lasted about 45 minutes. The servers had to be shut down because the server room was overheating -- no air conditioning.
Suddenly, we had no Internet, computer system or phones. (The phone system is controlled by -- you guessed it -- a computer server).
Bang! About 10 p.m., we lost all power to the building.
Get it done
We went into our "MacGyver" mode and found a way to finish the pages.
How Laptop computers, iPhones, flashlights and resourceful journalists.
We used iPhones as wireless hotspots to create Internet connections. Our dockable laptops allowed us to unhook from the hard-wired network and link to the hotspots. Flashlights provided enough light to see the keyboards. (Our emergency lights are mounted high on the walls and don't provide adequate reading light.)
Even though servers in our building were shut down, we were able to access our news pages and do editing because about a year ago we had shifted that data to a Web-based system instead of relying on our internal servers.
Our 2 big helpers
Also, news page design is done by journalists in our Des Moines, Iowa, design studio. They have access to our content, so Madeline Donovan and Jake Laxen -- both former Times staffers -- jumped in on some of the copy editing and headline writing. We communicated with them by cellphone and instant messaging.
Our sports staff faced the daunting task of taking scores and results without phones working in our building. Again, they used cellphones and emails instead of faxes and other ways. We were able to get almost all the results from local games.
Our sports and news copy desk chiefs approved the final pages at 11:10 p.m. We hit the deadline!
About five minutes later, the lights came back.
We often refer to the newspaper as "the daily miracle." On this Saturday night, it felt like one.
A final note: On Tuesday, we had a meltdown with our main Sports phone line. Tuesday was a heavy prep and college sports night. When coaches called in with results, the phone line just kept ringing. Again, our sports staffers used cellphones, tweets, emails and contacts with other area newspapers sports staffs to get results. I think we missed only about four game results.
Note to coaches: Use these numbers if the main number isn't answered: 255-8772, 255-8771, 255-8776.
Again, our staffers are resourceful and always have one goal: Get the news to readers.
I'm proud of our journalists. They care deeply about meeting our obligation to readers: To get you the news.
And I won't take electricity for granted.
___ (c)2013 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.) Visit the St. Cloud Times
(St. Cloud, Minn.) at www.sctimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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