The blame game was in full mode last week when the lights went out and people were forced to survive outside their normal comfort zone.
The News and Sentinel had its own emergency, losing all connection to the outside world via telephone, computer, Internet and internal servers, which left us setting up temporary newsrooms in a generator-powered office in the building and sending teams with pagination-software computers to Martins Ferry and later to Marietta when power was restored there.
The pages of the newspaper were transmitted, once Internet access was established, for Saturday, Sunday and Monday editions to our sister newspaper in Wheeling, which printed the edition that was trucked back to Parkersburg for delivery.
The Tuesday paper was published on our Parkersburg press once power was restored late Monday afternoon. The team in Marietta packed up their computers and came "home" to where pressmen were hurriedly getting the multiple-unit press and press plate-maker back in operation after being shutdown since the storm hit.
With a great team effort by everyone at the newspaper, The News and Sentinel did not miss a publication day through the disaster. Yes, some of the newspapers weren't delivered at their usual time, mainly due to when carriers got the papers upon their return from Wheeling and/or carriers being unable to delivery them because of downed trees, lack of gasoline, etc., but The News and Sentinel published everyday, maintaining its string of never missing a publication day ... something for which the newspaper is very proud.
In the newsroom, we could not have functioned without the efforts of many, including city editor Jess Mancini, sports editor Dave Poe, news editor Terry Estep, sports paginator Ed Thomas, news paginator Kristofer McKenna, news paginator Emily Balser, news paginator Eric Mazzoni, photographer Jeffrey Baughan, news paginator Amy Phelps, reporters Wayne Towner, Jeff Saulton, Brett Dunlap, Jody Murphy, Michael Erb, Natalee Seely, Jolene Craig, sports writer Kerry Patrick, editorial page editor Larry Cox, obituary clerk Jessica Lott and others in every department at the newspaper.
But we were no more back in our newsroom "home" when my telephone started ringing with complaints about everything from the newspaper not being delivered on time, to city, county and state government officials not providing better leadership to get us through the storm's aftermath, to power company personnel not working fast enough, to local and national weather forecasters not giving better advance notice of the severity of the storm that sent as all back into the "Dark Ages."
Being in the middle of the information flow concerning the storm's aftermath, I have to admit I don't know of anyone who wasn't working nearly around the clock and doing whatever could be done to get life returned to some semblance of normal as quickly as possible.
Yes, there could have been a better flow of information, but let's remember the information changed nearly moment-to-moment on where gasoline could be found, what restaurants and groceries had food, where power had been restored, where cooling stations had been set up, where cold water was available and other essential survival information.
Most of the media outlets in the area were feeding information on websites, broadcasts and newspapers as fast as we could get it, but the information, especially on gasoline and food, changed nearly as fast as it was disseminated. And, no that's not an excuse, it's a fact of life that I've seen during other weather-related disasters where I've been the editor of the local newspaper.
Playing the blame game after this storm will only be constructive if it leads to a better disaster plan, but every disaster plan is dependent upon the type of disaster being handled.
Did we see some issues that need addressed if another storm hits, yes we did, such as traffic direction at major intersections where traffic lights were dark, more charging stations for electronic devices since so many people now use smartphones exclusively for communications, testing of backup generators to guarantee they will function to operate water and sewage plants, temporary four-way stop signs at major intersections where traffic lights are out of service, but all this and more needs to be discussed and rectified with a new plan once the emergency is over.
The blame game is counterproductive until the emergency is over.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.