By: M.L. Stein
Newspapers told they can never have too many backups to ensure
publication in the wake of an earthquake or other calamity sp.
IF NEWS ORGANIZATIONS think they’re prepared for disaster coverage, they should “think again,” advised Los Angeles Associated Press bureau chief Andy Lippman.
Based on their experiences in covering the Jan. 17 Los Angeles earthquake and other calamities, Lippman and Los Angeles Daily News editor Bob Burdick stressed preparation ranging from the installation of plug-in flashlights to the maintenance of boilerplate pages for emergency use.
Speaking at a California Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in Ventura, Lipmann suggested that newspapers update their emergency manuals, noting that phone numbers contained in them probably are outdated.
Recalling that AP’s emergency generator went down for 45 minutes as a result of the January earthquake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale, Lippman said, “You can never have too many backups.”
And to avoid having to hunt for flashlights during power outages, the executive recommended purchasing and installing plug-in flashlights immediately.
Burdick recalled the heavy damage suffered by the Daily News building, forcing the staff to depend on other newspapers to produce a paper for three days. The Daily News office is in the San Fernando Valley, near the earthquake’s epicenter.
“Prepare the Holy Grail,” Burdick warned. This, he explained, includes a front-page flag, template and masthead in case printing must be done elsewhere, where materials might not be available.
Several copies of the “grail” should be made and placed with trusted staffers as well as at the editor’s home, he advised.
“If you have only one copy, expect the building in which it is stored to be flattened, burned or blown up,” Burdick said.
Other planning materials, such as phone numbers, should be stashed in an editor’s car and home and also should be sent to the nearest AP bureau in case of an emergency, Burdick said.
Other suggestions for editors in Burdick’s “Earthquake Lessons” guide include:
? Maintain up-to-date numbers for computer-system services, since some companies specialize in restarting mainframes and recovering databases.
? Keep film in more than one location. Photographers should have adequate supplies of film in coolers in their cars and rotate stocks for freshness.
? For contingencies, line up a chain of one-hour photo shops, a job printer or a desktop publishing house.
? Store detailed street and area maps. “If you’re trapped on the wrong side of a collapsed freeway or bridge, you’ll need to know how best to hike to your destination.”
? Keep an inventory of cellular phones and portable terminals ? in more than one location.
? Know which staffers have ham radio or CB equipment. Editors also can work out contingency plans with local ham operators’ clubs.
? Keep directories of stores, fast-food restaurants and other establishments disaster victims might have to depend on for food and emergency supplies.
? Consider acquiring portable police and fire scanners to collect what could be invaluable information when power is out.
“No amount of planning can cover every contingency, so preparation should enhance flexibility, not restrict it,” Burdick said. “You cannot be too prepared, no matter how hard you try.”
He said editors should expect that some staff members will be unavailable in a disaster because of personal and family emergencies ? and a few staffers may be unwilling or unable to work a major disaster that affects them.
“This probably is not the time to disagree,” Burdick said. “It is the time, however, to get them out of the way and keep them out of the way.”
Lippman urged supervisors to respond to employees’ needs during coverage of a big story, which may mean supplying them with food and putting them and their families up in hotels.
AP even brought in a psychiatrist to minister staff, he said.
Hope Frazier, another veteran of the earthquake, floods and fires that have struck Southern California in the last two years, said such events offer one benefit for newspapers: the old-fashioned extra.
Frazier, editor and vice president of the three San Gabriel Valley Newspapers ? the Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune ? reported that the company launched extras after the January earthquake and a huge fire in Altadena.
In one instance, the papers put out two extras in one day.
“It’s easy to do, and readers snap them up,” Frazier said. “It’s good for sales and circulation.”
She said the papers printed 10,000 extras for the earthquake, “but we should have done twice that.”
Special editions move poorly in racks but sell big when hawked on the street, Frazier related.
?(A scene in the city room of the San Francisco Chronicle about midnight of Oct. 17, 1989, following a massive earthquake which rocked the area seven hours earlier. Nearly five years later, editors addressing the recent California Society of Newspaper Editors meeting urged their colleagues to have an assortment of backup systems in place to ensure a newspaper can publish in the wake of a quake or other disaster.) [Photo & Caption ID]
?( Photo by Steve Ringman) [Caption]