Do you know what happens when you make plans?
Wednesday was a day I won’t likely forget anytime soon, though I sure wish it had been less memorable.
Rarely is there a “normal” day at a community newspaper. Beyond the normal drama that usually comes in any workplace, community newspapers are controversy lightning rods.
Almost everything we do has the potential to make someone angry or stressed out. We’re fairly accustomed to that, and we’re comfortable in most of those situations.
But sometimes we face situations that are a little bit out of our control. Wednesday was one of those days for our staff.
All of us, like all of you, knew Hurricane Isaac was bearing down on our area and would likely start impacting us late Wednesday afternoon and continue throughout the evening.
Earlier in the week, we’d begun making plans to avoid problems with the storm. To produce a newspaper, our needs are fairly simple. We need a staff, something to cover, a computer or two, some paper and a functional printing press.
When it looked as if Isaac might arrive when our presses normally would be running and our contracted carriers delivering newspapers, we quickly decided to back up our usual deadlines and start printing earlier in the day.
We set a 6:30 p.m. deadline and everything was going smoothly — until it happened. The power went out literally as our press crew was starting the press.
Fairly quickly, we learned the Entergy crews would be unable to repair the damage quickly due to the extent of the problem. The tree that pulled down the power line was so big it would require a tractor help move it.
No problem, we thought. We’d already arranged with neighboring newspapers to help print our newspaper in a pinch and had agreed to do the same for each of them.
With each phone call to one of our back-up plans, my stress level increased and the likelihood that we would not get the newspaper printed increased with it.
All of our nearby options either had no electricity or were unable to get pressmen to their building due to weather issues — downed trees and the like.
Eventually, we found some kind folks at the newspaper in Bastrop, La., where the power was still on and their crew was willing to take on more work. We’re indebted to them.
The Democrat’s audience director Sam King braved the storm to drive to Bastrop in the middle of the night and retrieve the newspapers. The whole process made Thursday’s edition a few hours late, but at least it got out, given the circumstances.
Many thanks go to Sam for his dedication to our readers and tireless efforts on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
All of our staff earns my gratitude for their great work covering the storm and getting our office running again Thursday morning — by generator power.
Thanks also to our thousands of dedicated readers — many of who called to ask about their newspaper delivery and several brave souls who drove to the office in wind and rain to pick up a copy. It means a great deal to all of us at The Democrat to know we’re a part of your daily lives. We’re honored and humbled by that.
By Thursday afternoon, power was restored to our building and plans were being made to locate a generator large enough to fully power our printing press before the next storm heads our way.
On Friday as I was cleaning off my desk and saw my “emergency plans” which wound up being fairly worthless late Wednesday, I was reminded of something I read in long-time Democrat reader Joe Eidt’s e-mail signature.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans (or emergency plans). He has one for you.”
That excellent lesson should outlast any memory of any forgettable storm.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.