During my 38 year career in the newspaper business, there were many times when I had to work during storms. Weather is never a factor when it comes to producing a newspaper. News gathering goes on no matter what the weather conditions are like.
The Grand Haven Tribune, as well as many other daily newspapers, has never missed a publication date because of weather conditions. Newspapers can be categorized as one of those essential businesses that never closes its newsroom because of bad weather.
Of course, there have been some close calls.
In 1989, a straight-line storm knocked out power at the Tribune. We were faced with the task of trying to cover a major story without the ability to use our computers or to print a newspaper.
Our publisher, Lee Carter, was able to work out an arrangement with Holland Sentinel to use their equipment.
We published two editions at the Sentinel before our power restored. There were a lot of Tribune staffers who played key roles in helping keep our publishing record intact. Advertising, circulation and composing employees, as well as others, contributed to the effort of never missing a day of publication.
However, my most harrowing experience with weather conditions occurred 10 years earlier in Marquette, Mich.
In March 1979, I was scheduled to work as weekend news editor at the Marquette Mining Journal. I went to work at the Mining Journal after spending three years at the News-Herald in Del Rio, Texas. It was our first winter and spring in Marquette. Marilyn and I were having dinner with friends when the snow began to fall. Later that evening, she dropped me off at the office and headed home to our cabin nestled off the shores of Lake Superior.
Meanwhile, the wind and snow had intensified throughout the evening. When Marilyn reached home, she found the front door ajar and a pile of snow in our kitchen. She also found out that the heat went out.
At the Mining Journal, we began the task of producing Saturday’s newspaper. However, by the time the press deadline came, the majority of roads in Marquette had been closed to traffic. Our delivery trucks were unable to deliver newspapers to the newstands or to carriers. The papers were stored in the pressroom.
I was stuck the office with no way of getting home. Fortunately, a colleague who had an apartment just a few blocks away from the newspaper office, invited me to stay with him.
What I remember most is the deserted downtown. Main street was packed with snow. The only traffic was from snowmobiles. My colleague and I spent Saturday afternoon watching Michigan State beat Penn in the NCAA basketball tournament semifinals before we headed for work.
The roads still hadn’t been plowed after two feet of snow had been dumped on Marquette County. We once again produced a newspaper that would be stored in the pressroom.
Finally, on Sunday, the weather cleared and the roads plowed, allowing the delivery of two-days worth of newspapers.
A month later, when the editor of the newspaper in Del Rio offered me the news editor job, I gladly accepted. thinking that our days of dealing with foul weather were over.
Little did we know that the summer of 1979 would be one of the hottest on record. We had 100 consecutive days of 100 degrees or above temperatures. We even bought T-shirts that said: “I survived the summer of 1979."
The heat had no bearing on our ability to produce a newspaper, but it did make for a memorable year -- going from one extreme weather pattern to the other.
—By Len Painter, Tribune Community Columnist