by Melissa Brunner
Since it has consumed so much of our lives the past couple days (and weeks!), I thought I'd share some behind-the-scenes info on how closings make it onto the air and web.
Schools are the easy ones. Most schools in our area make their closings known to us through an automated system. They have the codes and passwords; their designated official dials in; and, presto!, it appears on your screen and is added to the web channel list. That's why, when someone asks on the chat if a certain district is closed, I refer them to the web list - we never actually talk to the schools, so we find out when you do! The system has worked really well, especially because it affords us the protection of someone prank-calling us. You laugh, but people have tried. The time it happened to me, I happened to have the superintendent's home phone number - called him at 10:30pm and woke him up, but he appreciated it!
The other closings you see - the childcares, businesses, churches, club meetings and more - get on the air in the traditional way: someone calls us, someone here types them in. It's a tall order when the calls are coming more quickly than you enter the events! For the past two days, that's meant someone woke up early to assist the morning crew (Suzie Gilbert did it Tuesday, Ryan Smith did it Wednesday). When 8am rolls around, our news director Jon Janes takes over the task, and when he left at 6:30, I've taken over the task while Producer Blake focuses on the 10pm newscast. At the height of the storm Tuesday afternoon, we had more than 400 closings in the system - that's in addition to the schools that were closed! Jon barely walked away from his desk. I sat down at 6:30 and didn't even get up for an hour. I took a quick walk down the hallway to grab a cup of coffee and, by the time I got back, the inbox was full again (the calls go to our answering service, which then forwards them via email). It was around 8:30 when it finally slowed down a bit.
I share this so that you know, when you call in a closing, we are truly addressing it as quickly as we can. In addition, we've had people call and ask why their closing hasn't shown up on the air yet. As you can imagine, with a list of 300 to 400 plus schools, it takes a while for all of them to cycle through. Be patient, or go to the list at www.wibw.com, where you should be able to scroll through and find it right away.
Now that you know, here's hoping we don't have to deal with it again anytime soon :-)
A hard copy of each closing is printed for reference - here's this week's stack!
Uncle JJ on closing patrol!