Let there be light! And so there was at CNN’s Washington bureau as of one hour ago…but the blackout at CQ Roll Call rages on. Thanks to Pepco, both newsgroups were without power since Tuesday afternoon.
So you might be wondering, how exactly does a newsroom function when their utility company doesn’t? Luckily, we have the answer in the form of an internal memo from Roll Call Editor Scott Montgomery and Publisher Mark Walters. The congratulatory message walks through the trials and tribulations their team overcame to put out Wednesday’s paper on time.
Although we think their figurative lights are out from time to time, we must applaud their heroic response to this literal blackout. Novella Memo after the jump.
“The story of today’s newspaper is simply too good not to share. It is nothing short of amazing that this newspaper was delivered on time this morning. Our readers cannot tell that our team went through the wringer to get this paper done, and that is just how it should be.
When the lights went out at 77K the timing was pretty close to being the worst-case scenario. Late afternoon, deadline on the way, early pages already locked down in the system we could no longer access.
Fortunately, nobody panicked. Melanie Starkey immediately went to work calling hotels and conference centers looking for work space, Katie Smith began working with Gannett to buy us extra deadline time. The copy desk/design team salvaged what they could of their work on laptop battery power and began preparing to relocate.
Within a couple of hours of losing power, Roll Call’s edit team was up and (somewhat) operational in a conference room at the Hall of States on North Capitol.
But more obstacles arose. We secured a room with WiFi, but discovered after getting set up that the building’s internal IT security system wouldn’t let us access our network through their WiFi. The result? We could send individual pages to the printer, but those pages had to be created outside of our network, separate from our library of page templates, without ready access to our logos and standing images, like the dome behind Roll Call at the top of page 1.
Oh, and all the early work that had been done had to be redone, completely.
Katie Smith, who as it turns out is at least 50 percent Marine, put everybody to work. She directed her team, figured out our technical work-arounds, stayed in touch with Gannett, made quick decision after quick decision to keep us on task. Blake Whitney and Sara Bondioli built new pages and recreated old ones. Cyra Master, Alex Wang and new copy editor Alex Muller on his first day scoured stories without proof pages.
A team of editors including Paul Singer, Christina Bellantoni, Emily Pierce and features stand-in Emily Heil, moved copy through email and in their spare time retyped stories that had been done earlier in the day but were stuck in the system that we couldn’t reach.
In one case, the edited version of a story, which had been printed and tossed, had to be retrieved from the recycling bin at 77K. When we couldn’t find a fax machine in our building, Emily Heil knocked on the door at Fox News to borrow theirs, but when that didn’t work Shira Toeplitz drove to our conference room to hand deliver the story, which was then retyped back into the system.
Jessica Estepa’s Kathy Hochul story, lost forever in the system and no print-outs to be had, rewrote the story from memory (and some good notes). Rachael Bade, who is way too smart for this, graciously kept the team fed and organized.
And in the mean time, our reporters on the Hill – and off – stayed focused on the news, filing good clean copy that helped us get things done.
It is a rare opportunity to get to really see people at their very best. Yesterday was one of those opportunities and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the editorial team at Roll Call.”
Scott Montgomery & Mark Walters