Printing a paper with no power

Society depends on journalists to shine light into darkness. Except sometimes a transformer blows and knocks out power to several city blocks, including the newspaper building. In that case, shining light into darkness is all too literal.

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  1. The Charleston Daily Mail staff was already cranking away under an early deadline Thursday evening when there were strange rumbles or pops not far away. Someone spoke up and wondered if it might be heat lightning. Then a call came in from photographer Tom Hindman. Night city editor Ashley B. Craig, who answered the phone, conveyed a very relevant message. "Everybody hit save!"
  2. So yeah, there was one more loud noise and then darkness. Computers became paperweights.
  3. Being naturally curious people, we went outside to see what was going on. The smoke rolling out of the ground was a big clue. A transformer had blown, knocking out power to several downtown blocks in Charleston, WV, including the newspaper.
  4. Watch Ashley Craig's Vine "Underground transformer blew on Virginia street in #CRW" taken on 7 May 2015. It has 0 likes. Vine is the best way to see and share life in motion. Create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see.
  5. So, this seemed like news. And many of us used the most immediate tools available to us, social media, to spread the word. Unfortunately, there was another big journalistic task at hand -- somehow putting out a newspaper with no power.
  6. The Charleston Gazette, in the same building, was in the same dark situation.
  7. Luckily, a little over a year ago, the newspaper went to a Cloud-based content management system. So copy editors were sent to their own homes to finish their pages. Daily Mail managing editor Philip Maramba, who had actually taken a vacation day, kicked in and helped to finish some pages -- plus converted pages to PDFs and saved to a flashdrive to hand deliver back to the newspaper when power could be restored.
  8. At first we discussed asking nearby newspapers in Beckley and Huntington to print the Charleston Daily Mail and Charleston Gazette. Instead, the plan wound up being to bring in and set up a very large generator to power the newspaper operations. By morning, newspapers were printed. You know how we affectionately call the newspaper the Daily Miracle? This actually was -- thanks to quick work and late hours by a lot of people.
  9. And, thanks to the big ol' generator.
  10. It was good to know what determination and ingenuity can do to ensure the printing of a daily newspaper. But we'd just as soon not go through it again any time soon. If you want to read more about what happened, the Gazette's Rusty Marks wrote a nice blow-by-blow.
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