When a quake shakes a Sunday night newsroom

Jit Fong Chin as @OCReggie

The following is an account of the role Jit Fong Chin, a member of the Orange County Register‘s web task force, played when an earthquake shook a newsroom staffed for a Sunday night.

The text was originally written as a comment on my post about how @OCReggie connected with the community during the quake. Jit was tweeting as @OCReggie on that night. She decided against posting the comment when she though it became too detailed and “prob boring for lot of people.”

Did I really send out a tweet that said, “Is anyone okay“?! I was working last night and filled in as @ocreggie. Here’s more context on what happened in the newsroom: OC Register, as are most other newsroom, was lightly staffed Sunday night. I was the night cops reporter, there was a photo editor, a night news editor, plus dozen or so other designers and copy editors working on putting out Monday’s print paper.

We felt the rolling. I immediately checked the USGS Web site, CHP and OCSD Web sites, and sent out a tweet as @ocreggie.  The photo editor called his network of photographers to find out if they had seen anything and had photo ideas. In minutes, Gary Robbins logged on and started reporting on the earthquake, and had a story up on ocregister site very quickly, I think within 15 minutes. I started calling the police and fire departments in O.C. to find out if there was damage.

Halfway through the list — covering about 80% of the county — nobody had reported any damage yet. By this time, several senior editors had weighed in from home and wanted to add an include on the register homepage, and since I knew there wasn’t damage, I decided to switch gears and worked on that since among the staff of three in the office, I had more technical expertise. Another reporter (Doug Irving) was called from home (by Marcia?) to finish making cop calls.

I put up the include, checked in on @ocreggie, made a page that pulled in tweets about earthquakes (and tried to put it on homepage include and ditched the plan in 2 minutes when I couldn’t, and added it to blog post instead), fixed a minor blog issue, then made second round of cop calls while the relief reporter culled comments for print story. By this time, we had more than 250 comments on Gary’s earthquake blog post, which he was also still industriously updating every few minutes.

By this time, it was about 10:30 p.m. — tweets had died about an hour ago, no damage from police reported, and no more time to put anything new in paper. I did another check on @ocreggie, and sent out a dozen DMs thanking people for responses and RTs, and expired bunch of old earthquake stories on the earthquake section that was linked to from the homepage.

What I think went well: 90% of credit goes to Gary for reporting and publishing something so quickly. I felt the Twitter work I did was quite minimal, prob just the least that was needed to get some conversation going. I wish I could have done more, but don’t think I could have with so few staff.

Jit’s text was only edited to include links.

Oh, and I was responsible for that embarrassing “Is anyone okay?” tweet. It was one of two tweets I posted before realizing that Jit was on the case.