Friday, October 26, 2007

Long time, no blog

Hello, my friends,

It's been quite awhile since I've hunkered down over my keyboard to yak about the newsroom, either in my capacity as a union guy or as part of the erstwhile News task force. Normally, I keep those separate, but I realize that at a time like this, it doesn't matter. We're all working toward the same objective, so I'll just send this out to everyone. Forgive the long delay in messages-- like all of you, I've been very busy working. On several fronts, actually. And while I'm tired, I'm feeling good about things.

The last few days have been absolutely crazy. The fires hit us in our potential Achilles heel, starting on a Sunday in locations faraway from the office. We're at our thinnest staff levels, everyone's spread out, trying to have a normal weekend and nobody's thinking of disaster and mayhem. But when the smoke started popping up, sometimes seemingly at every corner of the sky, no one panicked. We got our assignments and we went to work.

Disasters were not always our finest moments in the past, but this one was different. We didn't have the dozens of staffers that the Times threw at the story -- their staff list was longer than some of our stories-- but we held our own and put out some great stories and amazing pictures. In the midst of all the craziness on Sunday night, I even sat down with John McCoy and he laid down an awesome voiceover to a video. He nailed it in one take.

We had our share of challenges, certainly. Had we known the Canyon Country fire would get so much larger than Malibu, we probably would have shifted resources there earlier. And the screwups with printing and delivering the paper were certainly disheartening, but all the efforts did not go for nothing. At the same time we were cursing our slip-ups in print, had its best day for traffic ever. We got more than half a million page views, led by interactive maps and those rockin' photos. And you guys just kept feeding it, giving people the content they craved. In a tight situation, which would have been challenging under even ideal circumstances, you guys stepped up and kicked ass.

There's no secret why this happened: we were all working together. Pat Aidem was editing on Sunday, but she went to Malibu, only to come back, write it up and shift gears to the Canyon Country blaze. Jerry Berrios, who's only had a few weeks to familiarize herself with the area, jumped right in. Reporters and photographers came in on their days off. Page designers and copy editors juggled late-breaking stories to accommodate the shifting nature of the story. Our Web staff, similarly strapped on a weekend, cranked.

Throughout the whole thing, I never heard anyone complain. And for a bunch of journalists, that's as damn close to a miracle as we'll ever see.

While things have subsided and the fires have calmed down, we're going to have to keep this spirit alive. To all of you who participated in the News task force, your suggestions enabled this smooth coverage to unfold. To you union members, it's that spirit of togetherness that allowed us to flourish. As we'll discuss more in coming weeks, The Newspaper Guild will be offering us a lot more help to foster that togetherness, opening communications with our fellow media workers at other papers and looking for ways to partner with management to improve the health of the paper.

And I expect that the company will follow suit. While we've been able to produce tremendous results with little manpower and outdated equipment, we will need more resources if we want to keep it up. We will be working with the Daily News to ensure that as we keep fighting, we have the proper tools.

These are not easy times, at this paper or in this industry. I've been saying that for so long, I don't really remember an easy time, though. It seems like we jump from one crisis to the next, always riding one wave right into the following one. But you guys, the people who keep this place alive, are the toughest, smartest, most badass bunch of journalists around. With your talent, hard work and unity, we will get through this and anything else that comes along.

And with that said, I'll close. Thanks for the hard work and let's keep our fingers crossed for a little break from the fires-- if for no other reason, I'd like to put my ridiculous safari jacket away for a bit and go back to dressing like a regular hack reporter.

You rock and thank you,