At this summerís meeting of the Texas Press Association, Michael Smith, associate editor at the Galveston County Daily News, shared the newspaperís experiences with publishing a newspaper during and after Hurricane Ike hit the island. He said they thought they had a good disaster plan. The Daily News management reviews and updates the plan with current information each year after the season ends. What they learned from Ike was they did have a good plan for wind damage, but what the storm delivered was a flood.
A plan to handle a possible interruption of business at the Bulletin took on greater meaning for me as I listened to Smithís program. Upon our return I asked the Bell Law Office in Brownwood to draw up a standby printing agreement that we could use with another printer in the event that the Bulletin was unable to print and distribute newspapers. I had no idea at the time that I would have a need for it so soon.
As storms go, the one that came through Brownwood Monday night would not be classified as major, but the lightning strike the Bulletin office took about 7 p.m. sure was. The press crew was preparing for the evening printing when they heard a loud noise and smoke coming from the control panel. The building did not completely lose power. The crew was able to see to get around in the press room, but there was not sufficient power to try to start the press and determine the amount of damage. When it became clear that we would not be printing in Brownwood, the concern shifted to how to get the material transferred to another press.
The limited power in the building would not allow the production department to bring up the computers to complete the pagination progress in house. How then could the pages be sent to the FTP site where another printer could retrieve them to make negatives and plates? Derrick Stuckly, the sports editor, went to his house to complete his stories, and Art Veneris, the production manager, was planning to take the production server and a computer to his house to send the pages via e-mail, but he called and learned his Internet service was down. We attempted to power up from a portable generator but realized we did not have an adequate ground and did not want to risk damaging the computers. Veneris remembered Stuckly had a wireless card for his laptop that he uses at away games to access the Internet through his cell phone. He said the pages could be sent that way. So the server, a desktop computer, and the production manager headed for the sports editorís house.
The Tuesday and Wednesday editions of the Bulletin arrived late to subscriberís homes and to the retail outlets that sell papers, but I still find it amazing how much quicker the process is with the new technology. Prior to the digital transfer of pages to FTP sites, a driver would have had to carry paper paste-ups of the pages on the delivery truck to the printer. The printing facility is a three and half hour drive and the printers would not have been able to do anything until the truck arrived. Instead, Monday night the film was developed, plates made and the papers printed by the time the driver arrived at the plant.
We learned how severe the damage was Tuesday morning when full power was restored to the building by TXU Delivery. It appears the air-conditioners on the roof of the building took a direct lightning hit and it blew a three-phase fuse on the transformer on the power pole at the side of the building. Anything running at the time that utilized three-phase power was also damaged and that included the controller for the press. A press technician, who got it fixed on Thursday, said he had not seen one fried that badly in a long time.
On an unrelated matter regarding the newspaper, the Bulletin will be returning to a six-day frequency starting in October. Five years ago when we initiated the Saturday edition we thought about having it replace the Monday newspaper, but elected to increase the number of days of publication. Fifteen months later when we changed the print cycle from afternoon to morning we explored the idea again mainly for staffing reasons.
With the economic recovery continuing to be a rather slow process, the time is right to return to a six-day frequency for the print edition. The online edition www.brownwoodbulletin.com will continue to be updated each day, including Mondays, and the print edition of the Bulletin will be published Tuesday through Sunday.
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.