How the blackout papers keep rolling

Josh Pennell
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Word has spread about the problems at the Village Shopping Centre, which remains closed due to extensive damage to sprinkler and electrical systems.

The Telegram’s information technology (IT) team has been working around the clock to keep all systems in operational mode and smoothly running to ensure The Telegram is able to be assembled and printed daily since last weekend’s power outage. Pictured at The Telegram’s printing plant on Columbus Drive and temporary operations centre are (from left) production manager Bruce MacLean, IT systems professional Mark Evoy, Betty Bruce, process and development manager for the Atlantic and Saskatchewan region, and IT technician/digital media specialist Gary Grant.

Telegram staff members face challenges, since most of our offices are in the Village, in getting the news to readers.

And credit for the fact that your paper has come out and The Telegram website has been constantly updated really goes to The Telegram’s tech crew.

Betty Bruce was sick with pneumonia Sunday when she got the call that power had to be cut at the Village. She still has pneumonia, but on Wednesday she was one of the many people whipping around The Telegram’s printing plant across Columbus Drive from the Village, which has become a kind of impromptu work nexus to get the paper built and moving.

On Sunday when she got the call, she met with her tech co-workers and came up with a plan of attack — first going through The Telegram’s server room at The Village to ensure there was no water damage. Thankfully, there wasn’t.

“We had to physically take our file server and bring it over here just to try to get a manual paper out in time. We had to cut everything down to about 16 pages,” says Bruce.

Not to get too technical, but the server is kind of the brain of the paper. Staff members feed things into it and take things from it. Without it, the paper flatlines.

Once the server was moved, the paper had to be rebuilt.

“We had to rip apart the paper. Try to find cuts. Pictures that were already enhanced and we didn’t know where they were,” says Bruce.

For tech people, this might be considered a nightmare, but Bruce and her coworker Mark Evoy laugh as they tell the tale.

Monday’s paper got out after more than a full day’s work on the part of the techs. Just after it was done, a rolling blackout shut down the plant.

So if there was going to be a paper for Tuesday and the days following, a reliable source of power was needed. Evoy got the call noon Monday after working at home for the morning that a generator had been found to hook power to the printing plant.

“Once the generator was hooked up, then it was the process of slowly getting the network up, servers up and that process,” says Evoy.

After more than an hour of getting everything online and making sure it was all stable, the techs had to get machines for reporters, editors, photographers and photo technicians to work on. They brought 18 computers from the Village. It was a 12- to 14-hour day for the techs before they went home Monday.

“Then all through the night we were getting updates from the newsroom to make sure everything was still working over here,” says Bruce.

Wednesday at noon, they had no idea how long the day would last, but the sense of humour and demeanour of the techs was still impeccable.

The techs got The Telegram back online and out to the public through dark adversity. The tech crowd are those behind-the-scenes, essential people whose names you’ll never see on a story, but their impact is invisibly tattooed on everything you read on the Telegram’s pages.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Columbus Drive

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Recent comments

  • Wayne Thibodeau
    January 09, 2014 - 10:53

    Bravo to my TC Media colleagues at The Telegram in St. John's for doing outstanding work keeping its community informed during what was extremely trying conditions. Hopefully the lights are on and stay on for our friends in Newfoundland and Labrador. From your friends at The Guardian in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

  • Pam Frampton
    January 09, 2014 - 08:58

    Way to go, IT team! Thanks for all your hard work on our behalf.

  • Andy Dufresne
    January 09, 2014 - 08:54

    Sure, pat yourselves on the back for being able to produce a newspaper during this time, but if you're only able to print a 16-page edition, don't charge full price for it! Your $1.25 paper should only be .25 cents for the amount content in it. How about releasing your sales figures for the past few days? How many unsold copies remain in stores? Fair is fair; if you're only going to print half (or a quarter) of your normal paper, your selling price should reflect that.

    • Michelle
      January 09, 2014 - 09:37

      Seriously...can we just say thanks for all the hard work and quit complaining....Thanks for all the hard work. Andy, see that isn't really that hard to say, 6 words!

  • FormerTelegramITWorker
    January 09, 2014 - 08:47

    Kudos to The Telegram's IT team -- an often neglected and under-appreciated yet crucial part of the paper's operations. As always, they come through when it counts.

  • Mary Ellwood
    January 09, 2014 - 07:08

    Congratulations to the whole Telegram staff on a job well done. You obviously know the meaning of teamwork as it shows with the way everybody is going above and beyond.