Earlier this month, during the huge snowstorm, I was reminded why journalists are some of the best people to spend your working life with. On Thursday, our building was closed to the public and employees were encouraged to work from home rather than come into the office. That was a prudent decision on the publisher’s part and one the staff appreciated.
But, the deal is a little different for folks who work in the newsroom.
When an emergency event happens, that’s when journalists crank into high gear. Our job is to inform the public about the situation and keep them updated so they can stay safe. And we take that responsibility very seriously. I once led news meetings inside a parking garage after a severe hurricane hit my newsroom in Texas (and we powered the website using laptops hooked to the battery of a Dodge Neon).
As is often said, while others run from danger, journalists run toward it.
Or walk, as was the case during the snowstorm. One copy editor who lives near the office opted to walk to work rather than hazard driving the streets. Our early web producer spent the previous night at a relative’s house so she would be closer to the office for her 6 a.m. shift. Meteorologist Joe Martucci made it into work, sporting his signature suit and tie. One reporter borrowed her son’s four-wheel drive SUV so she could get into work (and she even brought us sandwiches!).
I made it to about a block from the office before getting stuck, along with several other motorists. Two police officers helped push my car to the side of the road, so I could walk the rest of the way.
“If you have such an important job that you need to go to work in weather like this, maybe you should get four-wheel drive,” said the officer. Point taken.
As I lugged myself through the icy wind and snow toward our building, I heard a hearty “Good morning!” There was Vern Ogrodnek, our multimedia editor, the wind whipping around him as he happily took video of the whole scene.
Each time someone arrived safely in the newsroom, everyone cheered. For those who couldn’t make it in, they worked diligently from home, writing and editing copy, updating our website and communicating with everyone who was in the newsroom and out in the field.
Another great quality about journalists is that they are conscientious. Throughout the day, various reporters who could see my car out the window would give me updates. “There’s an ambulance stuck beside it now,” someone would shout. “Cops are pushing two cars nearby.”
I really only cared if someone hit it (no one did) but appreciated their concern.
After lunch, Kevin Post, our editorial page editor, and Vern decided they had to push my car into the parking lot, so out into the snow we went. Twenty minutes later, my car was safely in the lot and we returned to work.
Certainly there are more dangerous situations than weather events (war comes to mind) that reporters regularly cover. But the principle is the same, whatever the emergency. If the public needs information, journalists will be there.
Kris Worrell is executive editor and vice president, news.