OH in the newsroom by Leah St. James
I live in southeastern Virginia. I moved here for a reason. We don’t get snow. At least not huge amounts of it. We get a few inches here or there.
We don’t get the kind of snow that has you digging your car out for hours, only to have it buried 30 minutes later by a passing snowplow. (Been there, done that.)
We don’t get the kind of snow that has you out of your car, pushing two or three tons of steel uphill through a foot and a half of the white cra–, uh, stuff. (Been there, done that, too.)
We don’t get the kind of snow that turns bustling cities into ghost towns while city workers risk life and limb, laboring across frozen landscapes to clear streets so people can get back to their busy lives. (And yes, I’m an alumni of this as well.)
I love living in an area when a snow event might be defined by as little as two inches. A prediction of higher amounts is the bread and butter of news organizations.
So when our local forecast called for a major dumping of snow last week, our editors vaulted into action with the alacrity of a lineman on a quarterback’s fumble.
They watched and posted updates from the National Weather Service. They kept an eye on predictions from all the local weather forecasters. And as the forecast changed from two to four inches, to four to six, then six to 10, even 12, they adjusted and revised. They planned for every contingency, both for reporting the news, and for the well-being of our staff who would not only be out on those frozen roadways, but trying to get home to their loved ones.
My first inkling that things were going to bad? When a senior editor stopped by my desk and asked, “Where are those mattresses we had around here?” He was planning for a safe overnight refuge from the storm for staff members who wouldn’t make it home. (Now that’s something most people don’t think of when they consider the running of a news organization!)
I tracked down the mattresses, then headed to Walmart to stock up on food for the crew. Being a mom, I tried to make sure there were plenty of healthy choices along with the goodies, so my “kids” would be well nourished and happy.
The snow did turn into a major event for us, although not anywhere near as bad as in Atlanta. Our editors’ planning paid off, and we were able to bring the story of the storm into homes throughout our area. As I sat in my nice warm house that evening and watched the local news posted by the minute on our website, I thought about my friends and co-workers out there in the cold making it happen.