Handling the storm, newspaper style

Predicting the weather is, at best, a crap shoot.

Be too conservative and people will make fun of you for guessing wrong. Be too liberal and people will complain and complain about how your decision puts lives at risk.

Such was the case with Coweta County this week. For example, on Monday the Coweta County School System was deciding whether or not to close school on Tuesday. It’s important to note at the time this decision was being made, the high temperature was hitting in the 60s.

The board decided to close anyway, but have teachers report. When Tuesday rolled around, even the teachers were sent home. As far as we can tell, no Coweta County student spent Tuesday night at school. We can’t say the same for Atlanta area schools, with reports of hundreds of young kids hunkering down for the night in churches and schools. Buses were unable to get kids home.

To the Coweta County School System, thank you for taking the risk of looking foolish because you put the interests of the kids ahead of what storm may or may not have happened.

Like other businesses, we here at The Newnan Times-Herald watched the weather. Let’s change that. Our circulation department team was eyeballing weather reports like a mother hen. Our circulation manager went to the general manager about her concerns and our general manager just looked at her in disbelief. He obviously had not checked the weather lately.

But that’s why we have a great team. Everyone has everyone’s back.

We made the decision — again, remember it was 60 degrees outside — to go into holiday print mode. Basically, this meant printing the paper early. Our paginators usually have the news pages done by 9 p.m., with sports finishing up around midnight. On a holiday schedule, all pages are sent to the printing plant by 1 p.m. The idea is to get the paper printed so the carriers can deliver it in time before bad weather hits.

And that’s what we did. And it didn’t matter. By midday Tuesday, snowflakes were falling. And it just got worse. So much so, that by the time carriers were picking up newspapers, ice was forming on the streets. Some Wednesday papers were delivered, many were not.

We also decided to open up both the website and digital edition for everyone. If we couldn’t deliver the news by print, we could at least keep people updated using the Internet. We also had to make a decision about Thursday’s paper. We agreed it made no sense to try to print early again, because on Wednesday morning, we knew many streets would be impossible to drive on.

So we made the decision to try to print the paper on a normal time, hoping the streets would clear up. During the day Wednesday, the streets started to clear, but we all realized they would refreeze again Wednesday night.

Like other businesses, we know our greatest asset is our employees, and their safety comes first. So, for the first time since anyone can remember, we decided to not even try to print Thursday’s paper the day before.

Instead, we printed Thursday’s paper on Thursday. We printed Friday’s paper after that, and delivered both editions today.

We apologize for the delays in getting your newspapers out, but we hope you will understand. We are fortunate in this day and age to have the Internet. On Wednesday alone, more than 32,000 people visited our site — probably one of the highest numbers in our history.

Many of our staff still can’t get to the newspaper. Reporters are having trouble reaching sources for stories because those individuals aren’t at work either. Certain standing sections of the newspaper won’t come out this week, simply because reporters are focused on providing you, our readers, with the latest information about the storm.

The important thing is that everyone remains safe. We will strive to keep you updated through times-herald.com as much as possible. And eventually, this storm’s aftermath will pass, and we will all be back to normal.

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