Housekeeping How We Got This Week’s Issue to the Printer
posted by August 20 at 12:46 PMon
Tuesday is the busiest day in The Stranger’s production cycle—the day the paper goes to the printer. Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of the usual stress, our phones went blank and some of the lights in our offices went out. A second later, Dan Savage looked up from his computer and said, “Why can’t I get on Slog?”
A transformer across the street had just blown. In addition to the power we’d lost—some departments had it, some didn’t (the phone system had lost power)—we’d lost internet and email access. This posed a special problem: Without the internet, we couldn’t get pages to the printer. Our solution? Senior ad designer Mary Traverse took a computer to Grey Gallery & Lounge across the street from our offices, because they have free wi-fi, and uploaded one page (the one that was ready at that moment) to the printer’s FTP site from there. Meanwhile, we were still finishing up and proofreading pages on the few computers in the production department that still had power.
Eventually, big orange trucks from Seattle City Light showed up.
There was a white truck too—according to our tech support guy Brian Geoghagan, the white truck is always the supervisor’s truck—and Geoghagan took it upon himself to march up to the white truck and ask the man inside when the power was going to come back. The man in the white truck informed him that, actually, the power was about to go out. All of it. The whole block. More than the whole block. The City Light guys needed all the power out in the area to solve whatever the problem was.
Geoghagan relayed this information to our systems administrator Nathaniel Irons, who burst into the production department to let everyone know that the little power we had left was about to be cut. “Save what you’re doing and shut down!” he said. “How much time do we have?” everyone wanted to know. “Minutes,” Irons said, guessing. We approved a couple pages that hadn’t had all the usual eyes looking at them, so we could pdf them, save them to external hard drives, and send them to the printer remotely. It was a fun couple minutes there on the ludicrous-speed treadmill, getting pages approved faster than they’ve ever been approved, knowing full well there’d be errors but at least we’d have a complete paper, with all the usual sections and all the stories that the cover promised, and also a cover, since that was one of the pages still being worked on, and that these things happen, that this was going to be a funny story to explain to our readers, that—zhooooooooop!
All the computers went blank. The building was dead. We didn’t make it—we didn’t have pdfs of those rushed pages, because it takes a minute to pdf a page, and Grey Gallery had lost their power too. We all just kinda looked at each other.
The latest estimate from City Light was that power would be back around 7 pm—so the only thing to do was to go to a bar and wait. We went to Linda’s, since Linda’s is far enough from the office that they would still have power and since Linda’s has wi-fi—for email, for Slog—although, hilariously, the wi-fi at Linda’s was out. So we just waited.
That’s when things got interesting.
A new estimate from City Light came: power wasn’t going to be restored until 6 am. Meaning, if we waited until we had power back in the office to put out the issue, we wouldn’t be able to put out the issue on time—and the vast majority our content is time-sensitive. So we did something that has never happened before in The Stranger’s history.
We went back to the office and carried all of the equipment in the production department down three flights of stairs and into a waiting van usually used to distribute the paper. The plan: take our computers to Stranger web development director Anthony Hecht’s living room, plug in all our computers, and get back to work. We didn’t have access to our servers, where content lives until it is published, but each designer had their respective sections on their hard drives, too, so as long as we had the computers themselves, we could finish the issue. Tim Keck, the founder and publisher of The Stranger, and Geoghagan, the tech support guy, couldn’t resist snapping photos of the occasion.
Editorial designer Aaron Edge loading his computer into the van:
Aaron Huffman, our art director, letting his lady know he isn’t going to be home for dinner:
Adult classifieds rep Bobby Anderson, ad designer Shena Connolly, and classifieds rep Heather Hansen loading their equipment into another car:
Copy chief Gillian Anderson explaining to managing editor Bethany Clement, while the van was being loaded, what remained to be done with certain pages:
Those of us with bikes biked to Hecht’s while the equipment came over in the van, and Geoghagan’s last act of the day was to snap this photo of his coworkers while biking:
There were dozens of other technical issues involved in getting us up and running in Hecht’s dining room, comfortable as it was—nobody could log on to the iMacs using their regular log-in because of the way log-in had been set up on our network long ago, but we could bust into them using an admin password, although then we didn’t have individual designers’ templates, etc., etc. One of the templates we didn’t have was for the This Week on TheStranger.com box on the back page. In a pinch, we decided to create a very different looking This Week on TheStranger.com, one that harkened back to the pre-world-wide-web days. Way back.
We got the paper to the printer just after 9 pm. It was pouring outside. The office had power again—so much for that 6 am estimate—and we needed the computers here in the morning, to send our Bumbershoot guide to the printer (today). So we found a bunch of plastic grocery store bags and a couple trash bags in Hecht’s apartment, wrapped all the equipment, carried it out to cars in the downpour, and back up the office’s three flights of stairs.
This week’s issue of The Stranger should be on the streets at the same time it usually is, more or less. And it’s a beauty.