Friday, September 02, 2005

Flying in to cover Katrina

With journalists struggling to put out papers in the devastated regions of the Gulf Coast, news orgs are shipping in help.

My friend Nick Jungman left the Wichita Eagle for Columbus, Ga., where the staff of the Biloxi Sun Herald has set up shop.

Communication was tough, he said Thursday:
Spirits are generally high, but several people have no idea whether their homes are still standing, and there are members of the staff that have never reported in. Communication with folks in Biloxi and Gulfport only comes from their trips to transmit from Mobile, where the phones and networks have been working, and some calls using Knight Ridder's satellite phone, which VP Brian Monroe has in the field.
The Sun Herald has managed to publish, on paper, every day, which is incredible. Nick said they were putting out 24-page papers that they were trucking the five or six hours down to the Mississippi coast.
People are desperate for the most basic information -- how to get water, where to get food, how to find their families. But because practically nothing works -- no electricity, let alone telephone and Internet -- the newspaper is pretty much the only source for all that. ... It's even being distributed locally in Columbus because some people from the Mississippi coast are sheltering in the area. We have a picture in yesterday's [Wednesday's] paper of a woman who broke down crying when she saw the devastation in her hometown ... in her hometown newspaper.
All this gets done with a small staff and help from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
I'm here with four members of the Biloxi desk -- assistant city editor, wire editor, graphics editor and designer -- plus KR reinforcements -- myself, two from San Jose, one from Miami, one from Macon and one from Aberdeen, S.D., with more to come. Plus the whole staff of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. They've practically reassigned their managing editor to helping us, and their picture editors and copy editors are pitching in on top of their normal work.
Columbus' pressroom prints the local paper and then the Biloxi paper. It must be a madhouse there.

A little about the production angle, since a lot of you newspaper folks will be interested in the details: Nick is the copy chief at the Eagle, making a transition to report on the business desk. But he does have some design background. For the Biloxi paper, he's doing mostly pagination.
I've learned a new pagination system almost from scratch (DTI). ... We all pitch in editing as we have time, and a lot of editing happens on proof. It's hard because communicating with folks in Biloxi has been a real challenge. They had been either dictating to us over a satellite phone or driving to Mobile to transmit via Internet. Today [Thursday], the phone company got DSL and a landline up and running at the Sun Herald, which is helping immensely.
>An update from San Jose's Kevin Wendt, also helping the Biloxi paper []
>'Sun-Herald' Presses On, But Many Employees Unaccounted For [E&P]
>Top Knight Ridder Execs Describe Visit to Biloxi [E&P]


At 11:01 PM, September 03, 2005, Blogger Doug said...

I think this is one of the most interesting comments: "But because practically nothing works -- no electricity, let alone telephone and Internet -- the newspaper is pretty much the only source for all that." Let's not get all "I told you so," because digital technologies have certainly had great value during the past weeek. But it is an excellent thought to ruminate on -- it's a better world because we have digital, but also because we aren't all digital. -- Doug

At 10:03 AM, September 04, 2005, Blogger Nick said...

And look at what has happened in New Orleans, Doug. I'm not there, so I'm only speculating, but could any of the chaos that ensued in that city have been avoided if the Times-Picayune had found a way to maintain its print edition? What they did online in the critical first few days was of no use to their readers without power.


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