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Newspapers don't have snow days

March 03, 2003|by LIZ THOMPSON

Heavy sigh.

I'm just sick of snow.

My dog is sick of snow.

She is convinced that we purposely coated the yard in a foot of the stuff to make her life miserable. She keeps giving me those looks that animals can give that make you feel guilty even when you didn't do anything.

Actually, there are a couple reporters who are starting to give me similar looks. When the words "Do a weather story on ... (fill in the blanks)" start coming out of my mouth, the looks start showing up on the faces around me.

We've been tracking snowfalls, snow days and snow problems for the better part of two weeks. We do it because this kind of heavy and sustained snow affects so many aspects of people's lives. Schools are closed, people have trouble negotiating their way around snow banks and the parking space painfully cleared by someone becomes the most valuable real estate on the block.


Still, in the last two weeks I've had it easier than many of my co-workers. When the first storm hit on Feb. 16 and 17, I was stuck at home. Others got in and got the newspaper out.

There are many businesses - and we are one - that can't just close up shop when 2 feet of snow falls. We put out a newspaper every day regardless of the weather.

Early that Sunday morning, executive editor Terry Headlee packed a bag and drove to work before the worst of the storm hit. He had gotten up, heard the weather report and headed in. He didn't go home again until Monday night.

I talked with him later Sunday, about noon. By then, my husband and I had cleared our driveway twice and were anticipating doing it at least one more time to stay ahead of the snowfall. Cars were not seen on the road beyond our driveway and certainly a snowplow was, as it turned out, more than 24 hours away from dropping its plow anywhere near us.

Headlee knew others would be in the same situation. He began making calls early Sunday to figure out who would be able to get in and who would not.

Bill Kohler, the Tri-State editor, works the Sunday rotation. While still at home, he began checking in with reporters.

Julie Greene, who had already worked the Saturday rotation, was called in to work Sunday. She walked to work to cover for a reporter who couldn't get to the office.

Stacey Danzuso, who works out of the Chambersburg, Pa., bureau and normally works on Sunday, came to the Hagerstown office instead. Pepper Ballard, who also normally works Sunday, was within walking distance of the Hagerstown office and made it in.

Jefferson County, W.Va., bureau reporter Dave McMillion worked from home.

Besides Kohler, only one other regular Sunday editor, Tim Shea, was able to get in. Managing editor Linda Duffield and copy editor Joel Huffer, both normally off on Sunday, came in to help.

The sports department was covered by sports writers Bob Parasiliti and Dan Kauffman. Editorial assistant Sharon Slick manned the phones.

Chief photographer Kevin Gilbert put most of the rest of us to shame. Driving a basic front-wheel drive car, he navigated snow-covered roads in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to get the pictures that told the snow story.

That Sunday and Monday were the worst, and still, with teamwork and willingness to help, the newspapers got out.

That's what we do even when all of us can't participate.

Liz Thompson is city editor of The Herald-Mail. She can be reached at 301-733-5131, extension 7682, or by e-mail at

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