Got a call yesterday afternoon from Richard Clark in Jacksonville. Richard operates the copydesk there. I don’t know Richard well, he arrived there from Kinston after I left in 2007. But I know him a little.
His message was short and didn’t have much detail. “Call Chris Griffiths,” he said.
I know Chris Griffiths, and have for a long time. Chris is one of the IT guys for Freedom’s Eastern North Carolina newspapers. He was our tech guy in Jacksonville when I worked there. He still is.
What Chris wanted, as it turns out, was something I should have anticipated. The Daily News is prepping for the possible arrival of Hurricane Irene on the weekend. During my time in Jacksonville, we handled more than a dozen storms or serious threats of storms. Even the threats required days of preparation and enough stories to wear down any staff.
In 1996, Bertha touched off a serious five to six year run of regular hurricane activity on the North Carolina coast. It made the entire area skittish and feverish watchers of The Weather Channel. A framed print of the Daily News front page after Hurricane Bertha is on my office wall now. That issue fell about in the middle of a tough two-week stretch of almost non-stop reporting. The day after the storm, we published two newspapers within a 15-hour stretch. That front is the first one. We had power restored about 7 a.m. and had that issue on the street by noon.
Because the availablity of electrical power is always dicey during a hurricane, Chris was making sure that if the Daily News has to print its paper here, the page sizes match our press. That’s a huge challenge for them these days. The Daily News is now a tabloid size instead of the more standard broadsheet we produce seven days a week. If they print here, their desk will have to do so in a size they aren’t familiar with.
I had our graphics wizard Linda Bowden get Chris set up. Later in the day, they returned the favor. I had our online content editor Joe Jurney call Scott Edgington — his counterpart in Jacksonville to help us set up an online hurricane tracking map, which should be up soon for our web audience.
One of the things I love about newspapers is our ability to work together in times of need. Within our own company it’s a snap — but it’s not unsual for newspapers to collaborate forces when things get tough. We’re already talking about what to do should Irene take an inland course after making landfall. Even though that’s possibly days away — and the storm could turn in about any direction before then, it pays to be prepared. In our case we talk to our papers in Gastonia or even our competition in Greensboro.
Whatever it takes.
Stay tuned and best of luck to my friends in Jacksonville, Onslow County and Carteret County. There are a lot of long days ahead no matter what happens.