Publishing Under Adverse Conditions p. 20

By: Mark Fitzgerald Oklahoma business newspaper, with the help of a nearby daily,
misses only one edition after bomb blast damages its pressroom sp.

AT FIRST LARRY Fisk thought it was some kind of gas explosion.
And then the conference room where he sat with other managers was filled with shards of glass from the windows. Down the hall a light fixture fell on a reporter. Two paste-up artists lay seriously injured on the floor of the composing room.
It was 9:04 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, and the homemade truck bomb that had destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City had also devastated the offices of Journal Record Publishing, publisher of the 92-year-old daily Journal Record, a business newspaper.
Virtually all the editorial, photocomposition and printing facilities of Journal Record Publishing's many enterprises were housed in the 92-year-old Journal Record Building, across the street from the federal building.
And once the company's 175 employees were safely out of the building ? four of them were taken directly to the hospital, and all were released within a few days ? Journal Record managers scrambled to rebuild.
Fortunately, it was quickly determined that the building itself was structurally sound.
But that didn't mean much, said Journal Record president and general manager Larry Fisk.
"The interior is so torn out that it is an open question whether we will be able to return," Fisk said.
The explosion's worst damage occurred in a relatively new addition to the building that housed the Journal Record's production facilities for the company's various publications. In addition to the 3,600-circulation daily business newspaper, the company publishes Tinker Take-Off, the 30,000-free-distribution weekly for Tinker Air Force Base; several shoppers; and several editions of the Auto Trader. The company also prints all documents for the Oklahoma Legislature and is a commercial printer.
At the time of the explosion, the wing housed two web presses, a six-unit Heidelberg-Harris V-15 and an eight-unit Heidelberg-Harris V15-D with four splicers. In addition, the company had eight sheet-fed presses.
While some of the sheet-fed presses were accessible to workers and only slightly damaged, Fisk said, the two web presses were buried in rubble.
That Wednesday, the day of the explosion, the Journal Record newspaper missed an edition for the first time in its 92 years. But that day also demonstrated a spirit of cooperation by the newspaper industry, Fisk said.
"Everybody has been so helpful, just leaving us keys so we can come and go. I cannot thank them enough," he said.
In the hours after the blast, workers managed to salvage some equipment, and the staff set up a temporary newsroom and composing room in the public relations office of the University of Central Oklahoma in suburban Edmund.
The Edmund Sun agreed to print the newspaper until Journal Record Publishing could reconstruct its production facilities.
"They have been absolutely fantastic, setting us up with our own space, giving us the keys," Fisk said.
(Although it was miles from the bomb site and obviously suffered no damage, the evening Edmund Sun did hold its late edition open, to publish what was probably the nation's first newspaper account of tragedy.)
With this jury-rigged system, the Journal managed to publish a two-page paper on Friday, a four-page paper on Saturday and, finally, the normal 12 pages on Tuesday. The paper publishes Tuesday through Saturday.
Within a couple of days, the company rented space at a bank building downtown for its editorial functions.
There is, of course, no good time to lose production facilities in an explosion, but the Journal Record has been hit particularly hard because the effect the bombing has had on Oklahoma City commerce is the biggest story in the history of the business daily.
"We've been scrambling, that's for sure," Fisk said. "We pulled in our reporter from the state capital to help with coverage."
In addition, the staff must cope with roadblocks and obtain FBI passes to continue working in the area.
Distribution has not been a problem because the great bulk of its circulation was mailed to subscribers, Fisk said.
While the Edmund Sun prints the daily paper, the shoppers and Auto Trader books are being printed by Texoma Web in Gainesville, Texas.
Each day that passes on a borrowed press, however, brings a reminder of the deterioration of the web presses buried in the Journal Record Building.
"There has not been much damage to the eight-unit [press], which we can see. We really can't see the six-unit," Fisk said. However, there has been some water leaking in the area, and water damage was a big concern in the week after the bombing.
Journal Record workers managed to move a small sheet-fed press from the wreckage, and contract printing for the state legislature has resumed, Fisk said.


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