Sunday, June 26, 2011
On Hatteberg's People, when you are a newspaper editor, the last thing you want to see is the front page story about your newspaper. It happened in Ellsworth last week, as fire hit the building that housed the Ellsworth County Independent Reporter newspaper. Linda Mowery-Denning is its editor and publisher.
"It was pretty obvious when I got downtown that it was pretty serious.
So serious, you could see the fire for miles Sunday evening along the rolling hills of North-Central Kansas.
"We tried to post on our web site to get information out to people as to what was going on and there wasn't much else we could do."
It was the newspaper office that was burning. Downstairs, the couple who owned the building had their home. They barely make it out.
"The firefighters were just incredible. They managed to confine that fire to one building for the most part."
So the newspaper offices were destroyed. Most thought....no office--no newspaper.
"We never for one minute considered NOT putting out a paper."
And they did. This edition of the Ellsworth County Independent Reporter came out on time. The front page picture....of course...the fire.
"And we were so busy just trying to get a paper out that we didn't have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves."
The paper was made possible by many people. The superintendent of schools gave the newspaper staff access to the schools computers. The Salina Journal offered equipment and expertise along with other newspapers who volunteered staff and other support.
"It's been overwhelming."
It was the support of the people of the town that overwhelmed Linda. A vacant building just a few doors down from the fire was offered to the newspaper staff...and Linda gratefully took it.
"Small towns, that's what they do best. When people need help, everybody is there."
While Many came to pick up their newspapers. Others dropped by with kind words and special memories.
"You know, newspaper people have this reputation of being not very nice people, and that's just not true."
The computers are borrowed, as are the tables and everything else, but the paper is functioning.
"We've got to get more lines in here."
In her column thanking the community Linda wrote:
"When a major fire disrupts your town....it's more important than ever for the newspaper to do its job. It offers a sense of normalcy during a time or event that is anything but normal."
Normal was long-time employee Linda Bushnell delivering the paper throughout the county...as if nothing had happened.
"That was our business managers office where a beam fell down and just literally crushed her desk."
Back downtown, Linda was retrospective as she looked at the remains of the newspaper building. With the newspaper being the story...she said it may help her be a better reporter.
"We always have to remember that we are dealing with people's lives here, and we need to be as careful as we can."
Fire may take the building, but it couldn't stop the presses.
"And we'll be out next week too."