May 15, 2006
Thank you, Sherrel Sandoe. Thank you, Dick Hanson. You, too, Dale Roy. And Mallory Parkington, Lenny O’Keefe and Ry Amidon. Thanks to all who, like these people, contributed flood photographs to our website yesterday. And, please, keep them coming.
Today was an extraordinary day in the life of the Monitor. But then it was also extraordinary for many of our readers. Flooding forced people to evacuate their homes. Impassable roads closed many schools. The police, fire and rescue radio crackled all day long, sending public servants to deal with all manner of troubles. At St. Paul’s School, rising waters threatened historic buildings and caused what may be millions of dollars worth of damage. Students there were sent home two weeks early.
The newsroom was alive with the challenge of covering this huge story. Our photographers – Photo Editor Dan Habib, veteran staffer Ken Williams, freelancer Alan McRae and intern Brian Lehmann, who just flew in from Nebraska over the weekend and was working his first day – fanned out throughout the area. Artist Charlotte Thibault set to work on graphics to help tell the story.
Reporter Meg Heckman rode a school bus with evacuees. Annmarie Timmins toured Concord and covered the flooding at St. Paul’s School. A regional team – Walter Alarkon, Laurie Dorgan, Anne Ruderman. Joelle Farrell and Liz Walters – checked out the towns around Concord. Chelsea Conaboy, who covers the environment, reported on why the drenching rains of the last few weeks had caused such a calamity.
Editors became reporters. Allison Steele went to Hooksett, Manchester and other hard-hit areas south of our circulation area. Managing Editor Felice Belman gathered material to assemble what we call the roundup for tomorrow’s front page – our effort to put the big picture in a single story. Ralph Jimenez hit the road to collect color for tomorrow’s editorial.
Our director of product development, Mark Travis, directed the development of the online edition on the fly. All day long he and Don Hollen posted live updates on the flooding. Along with reporters in the field, staff writer Margot Sanger-Katz fed them material. Travis also used a new feature to collect photos from readers – and they responded. You can link to their contributions from our home page.
You can also link to an interactive map, which was primarily the work of Geordie Wilson, our publisher. If you click on a highlighted spot on the map, you can find out what happened there and, in some cases, link to photographs. Here, for example, is the link attached to the pointer to St. Paul’s School: “St. Paul’s School is sending students home. The rector reports significant damage to the Kittredge complex, Ohrstrom Library, Clark House, the Post Office and Hargate. The central heating plant is underwater and has been shut down. The sewage pumping station is also underwater and not functioning. See photos.”
Our night desk arrived in mid to late afternoon to figure out how to play the material our staff had gathered in tomorrow’s paper. The challenge is bigger than on most days because the story is so huge. The night editors’ job will be to decide photo play, help the reporters shape their stories and put it all together in a cogent package that encapsulates the day.
As I write, Dan Barrick is working on the front page and the local pages inside the A-section, and Nick Kershbaumer is doing the B section, with the cover page devoted to flooding coverage. The night wire editor, Jeannette Beltran, was evacuated from her apartment in Newmarket, and Belman told her to take the night off. (Beltran did feed Belman material from east of here that will be in the roundup tomorrow.) Bill Platt, pinch-hitting for Beltran, is assembling, editing and laying out the world and national coverage inside the A-section. Habib will be back after dinner to help lay out the photos.
We see our website as a great new tool for carrying out our mission of giving readers timely and reliable information that affects their lives. Stories like today’s are a crash course in learning to use Concord Monitor Online. What we can do with it, Travis told me late today, seems limited only by our imagination and by how much time we devote to it.
We’re still a small newspaper, and covering a story like this flooding is a huge challenge. We’re doing our best to use the new technology to augment the old, but the ethic that guides us remains the same: We come to work each day knowing that readers will judge us by tomorrow’s paper.
Posted by Mike Pride at May 15, 2006 07:01 PM