September 11, 2017

We’re fine and scrappy. That’s the report from the Poynter Institute.

As Hurricane Irma approached, the Poynter staff went into the ultimate work-life balancing act, juggling our obligations to keep family and friends safe, manage stress and continue to fulfill our mission to serve journalism.

Our home base is located on the water in downtown St. Petersburg. Our iconic building, erected as a peaceful retreat where journalists can come to discover and reflect, is lovely, but mostly glass, and built before the latest hurricane standards became law. Also, we’re in a flood zone.

Still, early reports suggest that, so far, we escaped without any serious damage. Staff are checking in safe. A Monday morning walk-through revealed no major damage, no flooding and — miraculously — the building's power still on. This morning’s storm surge did not materialize. The evening surge could still be a threat.

Two-thirds of the Poynter staff evacuated in advance of the storm, flying to Boston and St. Louis, driving inland to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Without actually planning it out, we migrated in stages, that allowed us to keep our site refreshed. Some of us left early, some of fled last-minute. It worked. When we arrived, we found internet connections and got to work.

While our colleagues who stayed back are doing post-storm assessments and picking up their duties, the diaspora is still feeling the impact of Irma, now a massive tropical storm which has engulfed most of the south.

To complicate matters, we recently (10 days ago) overhauled all of the backend systems that support our web infrastructure, NewsU and our newsletters. And our intrepid wonder editor Ben Mullin’s last day of work was Friday. (He’s moving onto a great new job that will be announced soon.) We are lucky to have Anne Glover at the helm as an interim editor, working from a house without power, on a spotty internet connection.

At NewsU, our online learning portal, our oversold editing course will proceed, as will the Poynter Local News Innovation Program. We are postponing the Social Media and Column Writing online group seminars because they require access to our studio.

Our in-person events are likely to proceed without much disruption, but time will tell on that one.

It will take at least this week for our staff to get home, along with the other 6.5 million Floridians who left the state. That reverse migration is going to be a story unto itself. 

If you want to help us out, keep pointing us toward the great journalism that’s happening everywhere.

Thanks for all your well wishes. We’re good.

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Kelly McBride is a writer, teacher and one of the country’s leading voices when it comes to media ethics. She has been on the faculty…
Kelly McBride

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