- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

Snowed under
I often tell friends and family I'm grateful that I'm not a policeman or an ambulance driver because no one dies when I make a mistake.
Nevertheless, we flatter ourselves that like those life-and-death service providers what we do is essential and believe that the newspaper must come out every day, no matter what.
Indeed, in the paper's 20-year history, we have never failed to publish a record we maintained during last week's snowstorm. The fact that our circulation department was unable to deliver the paper to every subscriber's doorstep for a couple of days is no reflection on their sometimes-heroic efforts.
I had been out of town for a couple of days and had missed all forecasts of the storm. The first I knew of it was when my phone rang at 9 a.m. Sunday morning as I was preparing breakfast.
The caller was reporter Tom Carter, who lives near the office and drives an SUV, offering to come in and work.
"Why?" I asked.
"Have you looked out the window?" he replied.
After tuning in the Weather Channel and thinking about it for a bit, I called back Mr. Carter and told him there was no need for him to come to work I normally work alone on Sundays but it would be useful if he could come to my house and drive me to the office.
Having been through a few big snowstorms before, I had a pretty good idea how things might unfold. I packed up a change of clothes and my wife prepared a package of foodstuffs dipping into the emergency-evacuation kit we had just prepared that probably would have kept me going for a week.
The newsroom was mostly empty when I arrived, even more so than is normal for a Sunday. The national desk was unstaffed until editor Ken Hanner made it in at about 2:30 p.m. The metro desk, which had to deal with covering the storm, had two editors and a reporter in place. The photo desk presumably had photographers out on the streets.
Geoff Etnyre, the only senior editor to work that day, announced that in order to give the circulation department a fighting chance we would have only one edition instead of the usual three and that the deadline for that edition would be 45 minutes earlier than usual.

A night out
For those of us not covering the storm, the idea was to get our stories written and edited as early as possible. That was easy enough for the foreign desk as I was able to fill the section with previously edited staff stories and wire-service copy that usually requires little work.
The heavy lifting was done by metro and photo desks, and their first-rate effort showed up in Monday's paper for those who were lucky enough to see it. The copy desk, which must read every story for spelling, grammar and style, also showed up in force and helped get everything done on time.
We closed the paper at 10 p.m., by which time the snow had accumulated to the point where there was little chance of anyone getting home. Staffers who lived in Maryland were in any case deterred by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s order banning nonessential vehicles from the state's roads until 4 p.m. Monday.
As it has done during other big storms, the paper made arrangements for us all to spend the night at a nearby hotel and a couple of SUV owners shuttled the lot of us over there. The greatest benefit of this arrangement was that we were all guaranteed of being back to the office on Monday.
There was no breakfast at the motel on Monday morning. The man who delivers their doughnuts had failed to arrive and the Dunkin' Donuts next door was no better off.
Mr. Hanner and I walked the half-mile through the snow back to the office, being the first to arrive apart from the security guard who let us into the building and a lone cafeteria worker who had already managed to produce a basket of steaming hot muffins.
Monday was largely a repeat of Sunday, with the handful of reporters and editors who made it to work putting out the paper with the same early deadlines.
A few got through in their cars and at least one reporter arrived in a taxi. Luckily for me, one of those who made it to work was deputy foreign editor Willis Witter, who took over the desk from me at midafternoon and stayed through until the 10 p.m. closing.
At that point, I hitched a ride from an SUV owner and headed home to dig out.
David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.


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