Small Lake Tahoe, Calif. Daily Covering Massive Fire With Blog-Style Web

By: Joe Strupp For the tiny Tahoe Daily Tribune, in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., the massive wildfires that erupted Sunday and have destroyed an estimated 220 homes and businesses across 2,500 acres have made the paper a national news source.

City Editor Jeff Munson says his paper, which has been covering the fires online blog-style with hourly updates, is getting dozens of e-mails from homeowners nationwide asking about their vacation properties in the area.

As Munson's nine-person news staff roams the fire-ravaged area, he has received at least 50 e-mails from people in areas as close as San Jose, Calif., and as far away as Missouri wanting to know if their second homes are safe. "They have homes here and want to know if the house has burned down," said Munson, who said he brought all nine staffers in on Sunday, a day that normally sees three newsroom employees. "We had everyone cranking. We have pulled people from sports and it is a lot of listening to the police scanner."

Although the newsroom has yet to be evacuated, he said one staffer in sales lost a home. He added that the paper has become a key source for news about the fire for evacuees, including some located across the street at a Red Cross center. He said volunteers there have taken to printing out Web stories and posting them on the wall, along with passing around copies of the print edition.

"It is an interesting way to use the Web," he said. "We have been updating constantly, we are the only real news source here." Ironically, Munson said, the paper had a meeting to plan for just such a massive fire three weeks ago.

Munson said the print edition, which normally has a circulation of about 10,000, increased its press run by about 1,000 for Monday. About six pages of the 32-page paper is devoted to the fire.


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