Wick Communications

Good news about bad news

In journalism on July 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

You would forgive Eric Petermann for wondering what he got himself into. As lousy luck would have it, he began his tenure as managing editor of the Sierra Vista Herald just as a literal firestorm hit the southern Arizona community.

The Monument Fire scared residents and scarred the hillsides. The denuded fields are now waterways and monsoon season has brought flash floods to the very same land that were burning weeks ago. Sometimes bad news spreads like wildfire and comes in a flood.

I called Petermann the other day to see how he was weathering these twin storms. I was heartened – and somewhat surprised — by what he said.

“It sounds like it would be an awful thing – and it is,” he said of 10 days when fire threatened the homes of some Herald employees. “But we, as a staff, have really found out what we’re capable of.”

Eric says day after day of hard work brought the staff closer together and made him more pleased than ever with his decision to relocate to the home base for Wick Communications. …

The Herald coverage has been good and as unrelenting as the fires and floods themselves. The staff has pursued really interesting angles well beyond obvious news stories.

The same can be said for the staff of the Capital Journal in Pierre, S.D. The staff there has been dealing with a slow-motion flood that has displaced dozens of local residents, some of them permanently. The newspaper staff even had to protect its building with hay bales before a bulge of water rolled through the mighty Missouri River.

The hardest part of such coverage may come when the threat has diminished. Petermann acknowledged it can be difficult to stay focused after the rush of adrenaline that comes when dramatic events unfold.

“That’s the challenge now,” he said.

Another challenge will be planning for the next spate of bad news. Petermann addressed that, too.

“It opened our eyes to the need for a disaster plan.”

Good advice for us all.

Clay

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