March 15 turned out to be an eventful Tuesday for the State Journal-Register.
The newsroom was not only covering the national primary and a local high school basketball team in a tournament, but was also beginning to think about changing their print centerpiece.
“We’d planned to do our print centerpiece on a very tight and nasty state senate race,” Executive Editor Angie Muhs said, “But the incumbent was worried he might lose, and his staff was refusing to tell us where he was. We were beginning to consider Plan B, switching print centerpiece to presidential race, to be safe.”
Though the weather had been sunny earlier in the day, by 7 p.m. it had begun to take a turn for the worse. And by 8 p.m., the city’s tornado sirens were wailing.
The newsroom evacuated to the basement for about 20 minutes, and when the sirens stopped, staff who’d been at the basketball game switched gears and headed out to investigate storm damage.
“Around 9 p.m., we went to Plan C and switched the print centerpiece to the storm. We hadn’t seen [photographer Justin Fowler’s] photos yet, but we were confident he’d have something good, so we gambled.”
Storm and basketball coverage was quickly uploaded online, which according to Parse.ly analytics had more than 2,200 viewers.
“[Reporter] John Kraft still wasn’t done for the night. Just after 11 p.m., that elusive state senator — who ended up winning — announced he’d have an 11:30 p.m. press conference. John scrambled, got there and had video posted shortly after.”
“Luckily, the tornado damage wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been,” Muhs said. “And, we had already eaten the election pizza by the time it happened.”