Wednesday, September 03, 2008

When you assume. . . .

You know the old saying, "When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME"?

Down in Baton Rouge, The Advocate never heard of that one. Before Hurricane Gustav came roaring in, the newspaper's publisher assumed -- with a hurricane on the way -- that the paper's brand-new printing plant would not lose power.


sday, The Advocate publicly wipes the egg off its face. Not that many of its subscribers ever will read about it:
Capital City Press did not publish a newsprint edition of The Advocate on Tuesday because it did not rent a backup generator to power the presses halted by Hurricane Gustav.

Instead, it posted the 48-page product it put together the night before in a format that retains the layout the newspaper would have had in print and distributed 200 office-paper copies Tuesday afternoon to agencies providing recovery services.

Beginning today, the paper is being printed by The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette until power is restored to Capital City Press’s Rieger Road printing facility, which could take several days or longer, Publisher David Manship said.

The newspaper’s content is produced at the editorial and administrative offices on Bluebonnet Boulevard, which have backup power.

Manship said Entergy Corp. told the paper before the storm that the printing facility could have power back by Thursday, but Manship pointed out the paper will be in line behind hospitals and other emergency service providers and that it could take longer.

Thursday’s paper and subsequent editions will be larger than today’s 16-page paper.

It also will begin running advertising again, though ads will be contained to recovery-related services.

Manship said the paper will be delivered to parts of the metro area where carriers have access. He also said carriers will make papers available at points close to those areas they cannot reach because of downed trees and power lines.

The Daily Advertiser printed 50,000 copies of today’s paper when it finished printing its own, at 3:30 a.m.

Manship said the goal is to have papers delivered by noon.

“We’ll … distribute them as best we can,” he said, noting traffic and fuel availability will be major factors.

Executive Editor Carl Redman said today’s edition seeks to balance much-needed information about the storm with other elements — comics, puzzles and some national sports news — that offer a sense of normality.

He said the main challenge so far is getting reports in from the field because of the lack of power and the unreliable communications infrastructure.

He added the newsroom is using the Web site to get information out as quickly as possible and is posting more photographs than usual.


Manship said he had to decide last week whether to pay $20,000 for a back-up generator by Thursday and decided against it because he didn’t think the printing facility would lose power.

“We made the decision that we didn’t want one,” he said, “and it was obviously a bad call on our part.”

While he conferred with a couple of department heads, Manship said the call was his.

“I was the ultimate decision-maker on that,” he said.

Newspapers generally pride themselves on performing their civic function regardless of — and especially during — difficult circumstances.

Tuesday was the first time in memory that The Advocate wasn’t published on a day it was supposed to.

UNREAL. That paper has a new printing plant, and you'd have to wonder why The Advocate's powers that be didn't just eat that cost upfront as part of the build-out. Especially in hurricane country.

But it is what it is.
And the home of "Why Try Harder?" continues its unbroken streak of short-sightedness in breaking its streak of daily publication.

And a fine lot of good plopping PDF files on the website will do for a largely powerless (and Internet deprived) city -- full of subscribers who didn't evacuate out of the storm zone.

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