‘TEXAS 7’ ARRESTED ON NEWSPAPER’S BLOCK

By: Joe Strupp

Colorado Publication Was Literally On the Scene


Managing editor Donna Richards of the Ute Pass Courier in
Woodland Park, Colo., didn’t have to tune into CNN or check The
Associated Press on Monday to learn that police had captured five
of the escaped prison inmates known as the Texas 7. All she had
to do was look out the window.

That’s because the Courier, a 3,500-circulation weekly
paper, just happens to be a half-block from the trailer park
where dozens of law enforcement officials swooped down on the
infamous convicts, took them into custody, and literally put the
paper on the front lines of the biggest news story in the
country.

“I was considering which story to place on the front page when I
heard the sirens and saw ambulances and police cars pulling up to
our parking lot,” Richards said of the chaos that erupted around
10 a.m. Monday, just five hours before the paper’s usual weekly
deadline. “We were told that there were people holed up in a
trailer, but we didn’t find out it was the Texas 7 until later.”

Once Richards determined who was being arrested, she immediately
dispatched her entire reporting staff – all three of them
– to shoot photos, get color, and nail down the facts. She
also delayed the deadline for three of the paper’s 14 news pages
from 3 p.m. Monday until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“We decided to hold some stories that were going to run this
week, including a 2,000-word story on rising local fuel prices,”
Richards told E&P as she continued to direct coverage
Tuesday morning. “We had a couple of other personality pieces
that are going to have to hold.”

The Courier publishes every Wednesday and was expected to
make its regular distribution schedule this week, despite a
likely press run delay of about two hours on Tuesday night,
Richards said. She added that the coverage would probably span
close to three pages, the most for a single story in her four
years at the paper.

“Our parking lot was literally the police line where they were
allowing people to be,” said publisher Rob Carrigan. “We were
really trapped in our parking lot by police vehicles. But we were
lucky it was close enough to get to.”

In the end, police captured four of the seven escapees, while a
fifth committed suicide inside the trailer. The remaining two
were still at large Tuesday afternoon.

While covering the big story with a small staff, the
Courier also had to contend with reporters calling from as
far away as Canada for information on the standoff that occurred
within spitting distance of the newspaper. From CNN to a Houston
radio station to network news reporters, the request for a local
viewpoint was endless.

“We had a Denver Post reporter using our offices for a
time and others calling in for information,” Richards said. “Our
phones were ringing off the hook.”

The entire time, Richards and Carrigan said their aim was to get
as much local information as possible in their stories, such as
reaction from trailer park residents who were evacuated from the
area Monday. “The struggle for us is to get something different
from everyone else,” said Carrigan, who added that the paper was
considering a special edition for later in the week. “There are a
lot of local stories, like how the county police were involved in
the arrests.”

The Courier is owned by Westward Communications of
Houston.



Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is an associate editor for E&P.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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