Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Planning for Disaster

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Planning for Disaster

Article excerpt

BOSTON GLOBE EXECUTIVE Robert D. Sylvester was nearing the end of his Nexpo presentation about the detailed mutual-assistance agreement the Globe and the Providence (R.I.) Journal have in case disaster halts production at either paper.

On the screen was a photo of the "emergency kit" of Journal section fronts, mastheads and column heads the Globe keeps on hand if it needs to produce the Providence paper.

"You'll notice these are the Providence materials," he explained a little sheepishly. "When I was putting this presentation together, I couldn't find the backup copy of the Globe emergency kit.

"I think that's quite telling... as to how emergency planning goes," said Sylvester, manager of publishing systems for the Globe.

Indeed, the disaster planning seminar at Nexpo began with a similar caveat from moderator Michael Stern, production manager of Syracuse Newspapers Inc. in New York.

"Please keep in mind there is no such thing as a perfect plan," Stern said.

Nevertheless, the recent spate of natural and man-made disasters that have struck newspapers have accelerated disaster planning around the country.

Consider the experience of just one chain, Knight-Ridder.

"Knight-Ridder [newspapers] faced five disasters in the past four years: the riots in Los Angeles, the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, and the Bay-area earthquake," said Ernest L. King, manager for environmental affairs at Knight-Ridder.

Before two of the worst natural disasters-Hurricane Andrew and the California earthquake--both the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News and the Miami Herald had extensive disaster plans ready.

Yet both papers also were helped, in the end, by luck.

The hurricane at the last moment veered away from the Herald's downtown Miami office, and the earthquake left Mercury News facilities with no serious damage.

"As we reflected on the events of October 1989, however, we knew we had dodged a major bullet," said Mercury News vice president-operations Jerry Polk.

The paper ordered a geological and structural analysis of its site. One result was that the paper improved the anchoring of much of its heavy equipment.

Miami, too, learned the importance of employee communications as it took literally days to contact all of the Herald's 2,500 employees, said Armando Gonzalez, director of engineering for the newspaper. …

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