Well. That was a week, wasn’t it?
Big weather events are big news events. Readers depend on us for minute-by-minute online updates on the snow, traffic and power outages, along with a next-day paper that recaps it all and hopefully tells a few good stories.
Unfortunately, big weather events also make it hard to put out a paper.
As you know, getting to work itself was dicey last week. Even on the worst day, most of the newsroom staff made it in. Some dug out and drove themselves. Some rode with better-outfitted family members. Two walked for an hour.
Technology helps us in these situations. Reporters who can’t make it in can email us stories about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. But we still need enough people in the office to orchestrate the coverage, go out on assignments and put all the stories on pages.
The closure of the Narrows bridges Friday stranded two page designers and two copy editors scheduled for the night shift in Tacoma. We called up a couple of Tacoma extras and had one of the stranded staffers – also a photographer – shoot pictures for our “trapped in Gig Harbor” story. Retired reporter Kris Sherman, who lives on Fox Island, also pitched in.
Many of us without power at home found the warm office especially cozy.
Our Olympian building, however, lost power Thursday morning and didn’t get it back until late Friday. An emergency generator kept the computers running, but not the heat or lights. We sacrificed a couple of computer outlets for a space heater and a coffee maker and continued the effort in the dark.
To get papers out earlier to carriers and give them more time to make deliveries, we “closed” the paper early Tuesday through Saturday. That meant sending final pages from the newsroom to the pressroom at 10:30 p.m. instead of 11:30 p.m.
Even then, many papers were late or never arrived.
Unfortunately, our carriers faced the same problems most of you did. The worst part of the drive was the side streets, where snow plows didn’t go and most of our subscribers live. Downed trees and power lines also blocked routes.
By Friday morning, 90 percent of our subscribers had their papers. It may be the first of this week before we get to everyone. Carriers will bring missed papers as well.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
Some customers understandably were upset, but a number of others called to thank us for their delivery service.
“We are grateful to our carriers who have braved the elements,” one subscriber wrote, “and perhaps should not have been on the roads – especially in the off-main-street neighborhoods!”
“Today I went out to get a paper not really expecting there to be one,” wrote another, “and I saw a young man walking along the side of the road sure enough he was hand- delivering the papers!”
Another reader sent me a picture of footprints in the snow up to her house – the only prints visible anywhere in her yard. They belonged to her paper carrier.
Delivering the news online is much simpler in weather like this.
Even the power outages didn’t stop people from consuming news – and lots of it – on their computers, tablets and cellphones.
We wrote more than 60 online stories, updated them repeatedly and posted dozens of photos. We had more than 80,000 daily visitors to thenewstribune.com Tuesday through Thursday – up more than 30 percent from normal. We tweeted or retweeted hundreds of messages on Twitter, the new hub for breaking news. And our Facebook page was hopping.
Many of you helped us “crowd-source” the story. We asked readers to post snowfall totals, road conditions and scene descriptions on an online form. By the end of the day Wednesday, we had more than 300 pinpoints of information on an interactive online map, which we published in Thursday’s newspaper. We couldn’t have collected that many measurements on our own; reader contributions made it better.
Determined to have a little fun, we also hosted a Best Snowman Contest that garnered 50 entries. (See the winners on Page B1 or go here.) And readers contributed 125 photos on our U-Post-It gallery online.
So thank you, readers, for your help and your patience last week during the snow-slush-ice-rain storm. Here’s hoping for a balmy February.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434