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Archive for February 16th, 2007

A blizzard & not the Diary Queen kind

Friday, February 16th, 2007

This week, I experienced the first “blizzard” of my adult life. The only time I can remember receiving as much snow was when I was about 8 or 9 and our car got stuck coming home from an Odyssey of the Mind tournament. I was completely swallowed by a snow drift that day. I remember back then the snow seemed fun. This week, it was anything but.

To make a long story — and more stories about the weather than anyone should ever have to stomach — short, it sucked. Lafayette landed with about 17 inches of snow total. (It was really only about 14.5″ on top of the snow we already had.) But it was bitterly cold and windy. Tuesday driving home, I remember I couldn’t see 100 feet in front of me. I was so sure I’d get stuck or hit or something. Listening to the scanner all day we literally could not even begin to keep up with the injury accidents coming across. It shut down the interstate for several hours.

I know earlier this year I was complaining about how I wanted snow, but come on, a foot and a half of snow overnight is a bit much. PLUS, when weather is as bad as it was this week, they close the schools. Do you know how hard it is to be an education reporter when not one of the schools is open? Yeah. It complicates things, and I think I’ve killed just about any schools/weather/snow angle possible. I think if I do another weather story in the next year, it will be too soon. Too bad we’re expecting another 2 to 4 inches of the slippery stuff tomorrow. Good thing I’m not working.

The only real reason I’m bringing this up is that I think we handled the story pretty awesome. Obviously, the blizzard Tuesday literally shut the city, the county and several counties around it down. Nobody was unaffected. But as I told my roommate when she asked me if I “seriously have to go to work?” on Tuesday and Wednesday, the news doesn’t just stop happening.

I think we did a great job being the go-to source for news and updates. One day, we had more than 60 Web updates, probably half of them at least weather-related. Each day we overshot our average (which is probably about 30/day) by a lot. And probably the best part, for me, was there was no questioning it was “get this for the Web.”

For the first time I really felt like every single person working there got it. It wasn’t about the next day’s paper. It was about getting the news out asap. It was about telling people to avoid the interstate full of accidents, that these roads were closed from X to Y, such and such school was delayed or cancelled tomorrow, this county was in a state of emergency and here’s what that means, etc.

The last thing I did before I dug my car out to drive home on Tuesday was write a brief for the site telling subscribers: Your papers will come, but they may be late. In the meantime, news, weather and more is available up-to-the-minute at jconline.com. I don’t think anyone could have denied that was true. And, although it wasn’t about the next day’s paper, that paper was far from an afterthought. Somehow, taking everything we collected, all the sources we cultivated, all the snow drifts we waded through and all the details we could gather, we were able to craft solid second-day packages that told not only what happened but also why it mattered and what was next. We even got some of that community interaction going, with readers sending in photos, stories and tips throughout the week. In sum: I think we nailed it.