Loose ends: Digital world makes storm coverage less stormy

Loose ends: Digital world makes storm coverage less stormy

The Westerly Sun

Blizzards bring nothing but pain in a number of areas — from the physical pain of shoveling and cold to schedule disruptions, pet concerns and home maintenance deficiencies that suddenly become glaring. When work deadlines are involved, however, blizzards — and any storm really — are just downright brutal.

Such was the case Thursday, when our news staff was reporting on the storm. But in 2017, it’s interesting to see the evolution in our business afforded by software that allows so much more to be done from home.

Only our breaking news reporter Jason Vallee and news editor Corey Fyke were in the office, holding down the fort as they say, with Jason  listening to scanner activity and Corey coordinating the coverage.

Other reporters worked the phones and email lines from home, checking in through the day on their towns for updates on the storm response, and photographer Harold Hanka was out in the middle of it, as usual, shooting.

During such events, a reporter’s day is on fast forward since the newsroom is simply one component of the multifaceted operation that gets a newspaper to your doorstep whether in good weather or a hurricane or blizzard. While the print production process has become more efficient, it is still fraught with the need to fine tune things on deadline and that comes before all the press work and the inserting of advertising sections and bundling for specific delivery routes — and delivery itself through miles and miles of neighborhoods and back roads. In a storm, that delivery process takes longer, requiring deadlines on the front end to be tighter.     

But the industry’s transformation to digital-first reporting has provided us the opportunity to get the news out faster and with fewer steps than print requires, though it has us living in two worlds simultaneously — print and digital. And print production deadlines still command our attention in a business that considers it a source of pride to say you’ve produced a newspaper despite any challenge that may arise.

Advances in that digital world, such as web-based news production software, allow us to do even more from home than simply write and send stories. Now, even those of us who edit stories and process them for digital and print publication can work from home.

As long as we all have power we can work more comfortably and make our deadlines easier. In the flood of 2010 we worked around garbage cans filling with rainwater from a leaky office roof. In past blizzards we worked in a cold, dark newsroom with only emergency lighting and no heat because we were tied to software servers in the building. But with web-based news software we became mobile, even finishing one edition from my kitchen counter after a storm killed power at the office during production.

Our digital transformation has served our print product well when we need it most. We can get the news out before we shovel our way to the car and before breaking through that mountain of packed snow the plow has deposited at the end of the driveway. And that gives us a jump on the print edition. Living in two worlds can be cumbersome at times, but in the worst of times, it has its benefits.






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