14th, A Tough Day At The Trib
Aug. 14th was a tough day.
tough week was coming to a close. We were publishing one of our glossy
covered specials — a six-time-a-year effort with a paper larger than
usual. I have to coordinate the impact on just about every Tribune
through Wednesday is getting through the toughest part of the process and
we got through it with flying colors.
I breathed a little more easily when I opened up Thursday morning.
with Melinda Katz
a recent Trib holiday party.
was the second day’s deadlining of last week’s “Best of Queens”
special Trib. We print the Trib on two nights
to enable us to provide targeted local coverage to different communities.
Much of the paper is common for all communities, but our nine different
editions allow us to localize and meet differing needs, events and
stories. Our approach also offers advertisers a variety of options to
effectively use their budgets to target appropriate geographic audiences.
night we go to press with the three editions of the Western Queens
Tribune serving those neighborhoods west of Woodhaven Boulevard.
is also deadline day for the PRESS of Southeast Queens,
complicating everyone’s task a bit, as they tried to focus on the heavy
lifting the Trib demanded. But we’d get it done.... we
a matter of fact, in the 33 plus years we’ve been publishing, I’m told
we only missed one deadline. My predecessor, Gary Ackerman relates that a
snowstorm once prevented our paper from getting to the printer. Back then
in Ack’s day — ancient history — transmitting PDF graphic files to
the printer’s FTP site was not a delivery alternative.
had gone very smoothly. Our cracker jack editorial team led by Tamara
Hartman and our solid art department motivated by our new art director,
Cindy Martinez – just completing her first week – had us way ahead of
morning was hectic. Atypically, it was afternoon and I hadn’t checked my
e-mail or looked at the mail and the phone rang.
Katz is on the phone.”
shit,” I knew I blew it!
the second time in my memory, I forgot an appointment. This time it was
Melinda Katz, a friend, chair of the Council committee on Land Use and
possibly the next speaker of the City Council. I just don’t do these
took the phone call, apologized and was out the door and at Caffe on the
Green in under 10 minutes. I had arranged for a drink to be sent to
Melinda with my apologizes from the car — I felt terrible.
found Melinda sitting outside on a step in cell phone conversation with
her office. Prepared for the worst — I’m certain that the attractive
Councilwoman is never kept waiting — I again offered my apologies.
be silly,” she let me off the hook. “You never do this; you must be
having a tough day,” was basically her only reaction to my unforgivable
really is wonderful. Not only did she try to make feel that I hadn’t
wronged her, she is bright, knowledgeable and as
good a public servant and politician as you find in our borough.
She’s good lunch company, too.
only complaint about the charming Ms. Katz is that she lives “off the
record.” She’d rather be her fun self and not be quoted, than her
cautious public self.
besides my public apology, may I offer some public advice: Your
off-the-record reactions are smart, precise and leave you looking pretty
darn good. You shoot from the hip as if you come from the Old West. Go on
the record, you excel.
far as excelling, her years of service, her superb understanding of City
Hall and the process of government, as well as her almost unique ability
to relate to any constituency citywide will elevate her, in her colleagues
eyes, as a real contender for speaker.
no race of her own, she is effectively raising funds to assist other
Councilmembers in need — she is second only to Speaker Giff Miller in
funds banked this election cycle. She has convinced this old time
political observer of her ability to cross this city with Council
colleagues dealing with the problems that face each district. She brings
to the Council table the same superb gifts that enable Giff Miller to
unite the diverse Council, blended with the spirit of the outer boroughs
– a winning combination!
Katz, if elected, would be the first female speaker in City history. The
powerbrokers who sit down to cut the speaker deal will take it all into
consideration and at the end of the day — some two years from now —
don’t be the least bit surprised to see this daughter of Queens become
Madam Speaker of the City.
has what it takes.
four o’clock approached on Thursday, we were wrapping up the night’s
work — a tribute to our Trib team and a super effort on
the part of everyone especially our newly-initiated art director.
little earlier on Thursday, we had our air conditioning repaired. For
several days, our system had been dragging. After calling our HVAC
(heating, ventilation, air conditioning) repairman for the past 12 years
and being told all was fine, we accepted briefly that the relatively new
system was unable to keep up with the high heat and humidity. But after a
couple of days of tough work at 75-plus degrees and no return calls from
our HVAC regular, we tried someone new.
never met Mike from Dual-Purpose Corp before, but the company was
recommended. He came in the morning on Thursday; went up on the roof; came
down and said: “Half your unit is not working — it’s out of freon. I
have to conduct a pressure test, find the leak, fix it. I’ll be back
I was not keeping time by Mike — using repairmen of any kind to track
minutes or even days is a reckless custom. But by mid to late afternoon,
Mike was back on the roof and not too much later the temperature on the
thermostat dropped below 75 and began falling. The office was cooling off
as we put the finishing touches on the Western Queens Tribune.
staff started noticing the temperature change and the air conditioning
became a bit of a focal point.
then it went off — boom, clunk . . . And the lights went out . . . And
the rest of the block . . . .
teach me to use a new air conditioning company.
the rest of the borough . . . And City. . . And northeast . . . To Detroit
. . . To Canada.
it started to get hot again . . . And the computers weren’t working . .
. As a matter of fact nothing was working . . . Except one printing plant
in Rockaway, New Jersey where we print the Tribune.
we get our baby to press?
team moved into high gear: assess what was missing; determine what can be
picked up electronically at the printing plant from last night’s
edition; piece together manually a couple of not-finished pages; stay
focused as the temperature inside rose.
editorial department was split between trying to cover the by-then-named
“Blackout of 2003,” and monitoring the final compilation of pages.
art department was on the phone with pre-press in Rockaway mixing and
matching to make sure every ad was in the right place on every page. We
were unable to transmit the last few pages in the computer and had to send
black and white printouts normally used to mark page position to replace a
handful of four-color ads that had not run the previous night.
was an exercise in communications, math, a bit of puzzle doing, patience
and camaraderie, as the office got hot and the daylight started growing
courier service lost their phone system well before we did — a two-hour
battery back up kept us going. Later we relied on sporadically working
cell phones. We knew the messenger was dispatched for a six o’clock
pick-up at our office, but it was after six.
couldn’t get a good traffic reading but attributed the lateness to the
mess cased by the blackout. We weren’t quite ready for a pick-up anyway.
most non-essential staff tackled the task of getting home, those who were
needed to complete the Trib or get out the PRESS
if the lights came back on, stayed. We were close enough to complete the PRESS
and make our print window if only we had an hour more of juice.
as you know, the electricity didn’t come back and the PRESS
went out a day late. The Trib on the other hand, was finally
ready for printing, but needed to make the hundred mile trip to Rockaway,
New Jersey with no messenger in sight.
news editor Steve McGuire went to cover reactions at the local bar, Tamara
and I remained in the office. Reporters were coming and going while
covering what was potentially the biggest news night of the year and there
was a messenger missing somewhere in the falling darkness.
8:30 p.m., I was trying to work the cell phone while seeking relief in my
air conditioned car and chatting through the window with Steve who was
ambling back from the bar and Tamara who had come outside for relief.
motorcycle zooms into the Trib parking lot. Alex, the
regular messenger, who normally drives messenger-like vehicles, had
returned home upon seeing the traffic mess to exchange four wheels for
two. The Trib was shortly on the way and the worst of the
blackout behind us.
how it seemed to go with just about everyone in our borough and city.
Hardened by 9/11, brave New Yorkers took the night (or a little bit more)
as a minor inconvenience. With good spirits, people throughout metro New
York shared food, rides and good will. People directed traffic, helped
each other and showed that tough New York is graced with deeply-rooted
people of Queens went on without incident.
Trib’s “Best of Queens” went to press and hit the
Aug. 14th was a tough day...but it was a good day too.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com