Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Iowa Newspaper Office Gutted by Fire

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Iowa Newspaper Office Gutted by Fire

Article excerpt

The roof of the three-story building that had housed the offices of the Valley News Today, Shenandoah, Iowa, sits collapsed in the basement, and the paper's employees won't know for a while whether the fire safe buried under rubble and several feet of water protected the paper's backed-up files.

The newspaper's office building, a spacious former downtown department store, was consumed last Saturday by a fire that took 24 hours, 24 fire departments and 1.2 million gallons of water to bring under control.

When it was all over, the newspaper was left with exactly one Nikon digital camera that a sports editor had grabbed on his way out on Friday to cover a high school basketball game. "We lost absolutely everything," says VNT publisher David Gustafson.

Gustafson and his staff have been scrambling since the fire to essentially reinvent the paper. They were able to access older files from an idle server that had been replaced last summer, although the files don't reflect the redesign implemented by the paper last October. Working on old PCs and driving stories saved on thumb drives to the office of a sister publication, the paper's staff was able to put out a 10-page edition on Tuesday. The Valley News Today publishes four times a week, Tuesday through Friday.

"It may not be the best paper I've ever done, but it's the one I'm most proud of," Gustafson says.

The VNT has purchased a new server and PCs, and is setting up shop in an old bank building a few doors down from its burned-out offices. Production and ad personnel, who have been working in the offices of sister publications, will rejoin colleagues tomorrow in the temporary offices. The paper has always used a Microsoft network for content generation, and QuarkXPress for layout.

At the same time, the newspaper staff is looking for ways to replace lost resources, and it is getting a lot of local help. …

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