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Daily Post gets its feet wet

A former newsroom colleague and I often would assess the work of news reporters with one question: "Did they get their feet wet?"

The scorecard originated when a flood submerged a large portion of our city. At the end of the day, the best stories came from the reporters whose feet were wet.

In other words, the journalists who ventured out, watched the rising waters first-hand and saw the anguish on the faces of those evacuated from their homes, wrote the most compelling stories. Stories filed by the reporters who stayed in the newsroom and worked the phones, just didn't have the same zing. Henceforth, the standard by which all news stories were measured was the figurative "wet feet."

It wasn't difficult for Daily Post reporters (and all our employees for that matter) to get their feet wet Monday morning. In fact, it was impossible to get into the Daily Post building without doing so.

A solid week of rain culminated overnight Sunday into a deluge that left roads impassable and dry feet impossible.

While many choose not to venture out in times of inclement weather, newspaper people face it head-on. Bad weather is big news and that means it's more important than ever to get to work, gather the news, report it, print it and deliver it to our readers.

This week's deluge not only hit our coverage area, it hit the Daily Post - hard.

All roads to the Daily Post were barricaded by police and floodwaters. Employees parked blocks away and sloshed through water and teeming rain to report for duty.

Reporters and photographers headed out to all corners of the county to capture Gwinnett's storm stories, often negotiating submerged, treacherous roadways.

After the Daily Post's back parking lot flooded twice (water was three-and-a-half feet up the side of our building and within eight inches of washing over the loading docks and into the pressroom), we made two decisions.

One was that with rising waters and the weather radar still very green, yellow and red, our carriers likely would not be able to access this building to pick up their papers. The circulation department decided to divert carriers who operate out of our Lawrenceville building to our North (Duluth) and East (Winder) distribution warehouses.

The second was that with the threat of water in the pressroom and rain already seeping in the east end of our building, it was prudent to print the paper somewhere else - a first for the Daily Post since moving into this building in 2003.

Calls were made. Logistics worked out.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution immediately agreed to print our paper at its Norcross facility.

Pre-press department placed the Daily Post pages on an ftp site for access by the AJC. Two trucks were dispatched to the AJC plant on Best Friend Road. As papers came off the AJC presses, they were transported to our North and East warehouses.

Carriers were called and notified of the change in pickup point, but all couldn't be reached by phone. A sentry was posted at the entrance to the Daily Post on Hurricane-Shoals and Old Norcross roads to inform those carriers of the switch and hand them printed directions on how to get to their new distribution point.

The last truck of newspapers left the AJC at 1:28 a.m. Tuesday and arrived at the North distribution point in Duluth at 2 a.m. - an acceptable time for on-time delivery.

On Tuesday morning, I, like thousands of our customers, walked to the end of the drive to retrieve my Daily Post, which was dedicated to the big news of unprecedented weather. Few of our customers were aware of the extra effort that went into the Daily Post edition of Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009. But that's the way it should be.

Today, the skies are a bit clearer, our parking lot is drained and our feet have almost dried.

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.