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Neither rain nor snow ... will keep our papers from getting out

February 27, 2005|BY TIM SHEA

The Herald-Mail Co. publishes newspapers every day except Christmas. This means that papers come off the press and need to be delivered - the weather may be nice, or we may have rain or snow.

Ah, snow.

Just the threat of snow sends many area residents scurrying for the nearest grocery store to stock up on water, milk, bread and other staples.

When the snow falls, it may create all sorts of havoc with our lives. The kids stay home from school, so parents need to find baby sitters or stay home from work. Cars go slipping and sliding all over the area's roads.

The snow also has an effect on how we do things at The Herald-Mail.

When snow is in the forecast, we must make decisions regarding deadlines so that we can ensure that papers get out to our customers in a timely manner.

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Even the time of the snowfall affects the decision-making process. If it's predicted that snow will fall during the night and into the overnight hours, we most likely will move the deadline up 30 minutes, and sometimes more if the snowfall is expected to be heavy.

If it snows during the morning and afternoon hours, The Daily Mail, our afternoon edition, may move its deadline up a half hour, but The Morning Herald, may decide to keep its regular deadline.

The thinking is that if the Herald starts at the normal time, that will give the local road crews more time to make the streets safe for our delivery drivers.

This means that copy editors need to adjust their normal routines by 30 minutes (or 60 minutes, or whatever amount of time) to get stories edited and pages designed. If a copy editor decides to come in early, he or she still may not get to work early if the roads are bad. If a copy editor comes in at the regular time, it means he or she has a half-hour less to do the job.

The effect trickles down to reporters, who need to file their stories earlier. Photographers need to have their pictures processed earlier. The people in pagination and the press room have that much less time to get the paper ready for publication.

In extreme cases, we sometimes have to take different measures. The President's Day snowstorm of 2003 is an example of that.

The snow started falling on Sunday that weekend and it didn't stop. Tri-State Editor Bill Kohler drove in from his home in Waynesboro, Pa., for his regular Sunday shift, and I made my much-shorter drive to get in here early. Luckily, Morning Herald Managing Editor Linda Duffield and now-Assistant Managing Editor Joel Huffer came in on their normal off-days to make sure we had a full crew.

Specifics elude me two years later, but we had a very early deadline on Sunday night and got the paper out. I then got a ride home from Editor and Publisher John League, and then got a lift into work the next day from Executive Editor Terry Headlee.

The next couple of days, with lots of the white stuff still on the ground, we decided to publish combined editions of The Herald-Mail instead of our normal weekday versions of The Daily Mail and The Morning Herald. Once again, the deadlines were very early.

So whether we get a couple of inches of snow or a couple of feet, we do what is necessary to get the paper out to the customers at the time they expect it. We've come to expect this as part of the job, and we sometimes come up with our best efforts under these circumstances.

Tim Shea is Business/Weekend editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2329, or by e-mail at tims@herald-mail.com.

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