Archived Story

Blackout produces interesting day

Published 6:32pm Monday, October 21, 2013

There is, quite simply, nothing like the buzz we get in the newspaper industry when a big story is happening.
There’s a bit of euphoria when that first call comes. You mind starts humming as each call confirms what you already know. You anxiously piece together each slice of nailed-down detail. You bust out your favorite verbs and adjectives, maybe a few adverbs. Then you slice out all that extra flourish to hone in on what really hits at the tale you aim to tell.
It’s what makes the business worth doing.
But sometimes simply getting it all put together is harder than simply getting it “just right.” Sometimes the people with the info don’t call you back. Sometimes the phones don’t even work, the Internet is down and even your cell phone cackles at you when you try to place a call.
In case you’ve been out of town, that “sometimes” was last Wednesday.
And boy was that an entertaining ride.
We don’t really think about how much we depend on our modern miracles of communication until they’re snatched away with a fiberoptic cable-cutting backhoe.
It snatches you out of the daily routine pretty quickly. Suddenly that telecom company’s public relations guy in the Birmingham office might just as easily be on Mars, because he couldn’t be any less accessible. The recent high school graduate at the cell phone place just became the face of the company because she’s the only one available who can do more than shrug and swear.
During last week’s outage, Tallapoosa County was an odd place to be. I had an appointment that day to get a picture on the other side of the lake in Eclectic. And no sooner than I crossed the bridge at Martin Dam on Alabama Highway 50, modern technology came back to life. My cell phone started pinging with new emails, voicemails and text messages.
While I was in Eclectic, I stopped off at my house to grab as much off my email as time would allow. Then I trucked it back to Alexander City.
Sure enough, around the time I crossed Kowaliga Bridge on 63, the the “cone of silence” was lowered again.  My compatriots at The Outlook moved to the loft apartment where two of our reporters live downtown. They have another cable/Internet company, which somehow avoided the communication breakdown.
So with on-the-fly planning and seat-of-our-pants operations, this proud communications company got the story out — along with two other weekly papers — despite a total breakdown of the connectivity on which we’ve come to depend.
When there’s a communications outage, a snow storm, tornados or other unplanned events, you want to know about it. So we figure out ways to figure things out, and get the facts to you ASAP. It’s part of the job.
But it can certainly make things interesting sometimes.
Goodwin is a staff writer for The Outlook.