February 16, 2021

When he saw the weather reports last week calling for ice in Oklahoma, Jason Collington knew things would get complicated.

“Whenever we hear the word ‘ice’ in any forecast, we know that we’re going to have some issues,” said Collington, editor of the Tulsa World. “And then when you have ice and then you have temperatures that are below freezing for multiple days, then we know that the ice isn’t going to melt.”

Icy conditions are dangerous for newspaper carriers, and Collington told Poynter on Monday afternoon that neighborhood streets in the area are not treated with sand like the major highways are, which has hindered some Tulsa World carriers from accessing these areas to deliver the newspaper on time.

As a sprawling winter storm continued its path Monday, knocking out electricity for millions in parts of the U.S. including Oklahoma in Texas, local newspapers have had to move fast to meet the needs of their readers. Journalists themselves have dealt with power outages.

Collington said that the biggest issue facing his publication is having to move final deadlines earlier through Saturday. He’s asked everyone to come in to work earlier. The region was awaiting a second snowstorm Monday afternoon.

“I review the front page every night before it goes to press, just to give it final eyes to it. I usually get those at 11 at night. I’m getting them at 7 o’clock at night now,” Collington said. “We’re working to get our presses and everyone working earlier, so we can get the press started earlier, which means carriers have to come in earlier. You move one thing, and then you got to move four other groups of people.”

An earlier deadline would allow carriers more time to try to get the papers delivered to subscribers. On the Tulsa World’s homepage, a wide advertisement urged readers to “PLEASE BEAR WITH US.” “As a result of the ongoing inclement weather, our carriers are doing everything they can to ensure you receive your copy of the Tulsa World in the most timely fashion possible,” the ad read, in part. “In the interim, please CLICK HERE to enjoy the e-edition of the Tulsa World.”

Readers who visit the Tulsa World’s website are greeted with this ad. (Courtesy of the Tulsa World)

The icy conditions have caused some newspapers to halt home deliveries until conditions improve. In Galveston, Texas, The Daily News announced Monday that it would suspend home-delivery for Tuesday morning due to dangerous temperatures and icy road conditions. It will resume the service as soon as road and weather conditions allow.

“In the meantime, our staff is working and publishing digitally here at GalvNews.com,” the announcement read. “Thank you for your understanding, and please be safe during this unusual weather event.”

In Waco, Texas, the Waco Tribune-Herald announced that it would not be publishing or delivering a print edition on Tuesday. “An online digital replica of today’s newspaper is available and can be viewed at wacotrib.com/eedition,” the note read.

Print publication will resume as soon as possible, it said.

In Tulsa, Collington said he’s sent daily updates via email to readers since last week. “We’re trying to let everyone know ‘Hey, we’re trying to get to you, but we’re having carrier wrecks. We’re having roads that are shut down by the police that are so icy,’” he said.

Collington noted that the region had an ice storm before a snowstorm.

“It was pure ice. We’re talking ice on everything. The Walmart parking, the grocery store parking lot were just skating rinks,” he said. “Ice is so much worse than snow. You can get snow tires, but you can’t get ice tires.”

The Dallas Morning News website has a red banner across the top that encourages readers to access its ePaper replica edition. In an email, managing editor Keith Campbell told Poynter that the newspaper has been alerting readers through several means of access to the e-edition.

“Subscribers received an email from us early this morning that if they had not received the paper they could access the ePaper,” Campbell wrote Monday evening. “We also ran a notice on our front page today that indicated that with treacherous weather and roads likely for several days and delays likely in delivery, print readers could access the replica edition at epaper.dallasnews.com.”

Campbell said the newspaper planned to run the notice again Tuesday, adding that many of The Dallas Morning News’ journalists were dealing with power outages on Monday. 

“For instance, I lost power for five hours overnight, then for three more this afternoon,” he wrote. “There’s been a lot of teamwork and resourcefulness in covering this once-in-a-generation weather story.”

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Amaris Castillo is a writing/research assistant for the NPR Public Editor and a contributor to Poynter.org. She’s also the creator of Bodega Stories and a…
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