, Gloucester, MA


February 9, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? The challenges of storm coverage

All right, I’ll say it.

I hope at least some of what you’re reading in today’s lead story actually turns out not to be true.

And while that may sound like heresy for any journalist under nearly every circumstance, the reality is pretty basic. I sincerely hope that many of the dire forecasts noted in today’s blizzard story prove to be false — though the odds on that were growing dimmer and dimmer as the storm began to intensify Friday afternoon and especially into Friday night.

Of all the news challenges facing community newspapers and other media these days, one of the most vexing can be handling the timing of stories that occur – or expected to occur — overnight. And that indeed is the case with today’s storm coverage.

Indeed, a classic example of that actually occurred last month, when our story across the top of Page 1 rightfully noted a parking ban, yet also referred to the snow that was “pelting” Cape Ann while readers were browsing through it that Monday morning. As it turned out, the expected overnight snowstorm abruptly changed course and shifted out to sea at about 11 p.m. the night before, so there was no snow pelting anyone by the time readers got their morning Times. The city’s parking ban? That had indeed been put in place beginning the night before, but was withdrawn by Mayor Carolyn Kirk by 9:30 the next morning, when it became clear that the anticipated storm turned out to be a dud.

Given the way that story played out, and perhaps given that not all of what you see outside today may match what’s described in this morning’s paper, you may well ask why we would handle the story that way. Couldn’t we just wait until we had a more thorough idea of what transpired late last night? Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?

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