Skagit Valley Herald rewarded for ‘working your buns off’ on bridge-collapse coverage

Kate Martin of the Skagit Valley Herald tells Romenesko readers: “After a very long and hectic week of news coverage (still going) after an interstate bridge collapse in Skagit County, Wash., this was a very welcome treat. An unnamed reader had dropped these buns off. They were still warm and incredibly delicious.” The reporter adds: “We don’t know who sent them, but we have our suspicions.”

“You worked your buns off for us this week covering the Skagit bridge. Here are some buns for you to enjoy. Thank you, your readers.”

UPDATE: Skagit Valley Herald editor Colette Weeks answered a few questions I had about covering the collapse:

The news department (a combined 20 people right now) filed approximately 55 hours of OT in a four-day period. That, of course, does not count people on salary.

We added two blank pages in the Friday edition to accommodate the breaking coverage.

Circulation was up 170% Friday, 86% Saturday and 20% Sunday. It would have been more Sunday, but we couldn’t increase the press run by much because of limitations regarding insert ads. So we ran out.

Our website saw an amazing one-day growth — 844%! Naturally that fell off drastically after the breaking news cycle slowed, but we continue to see a higher number of daily visits than in weeks prior, so we’re hoping we’ve captured new audience./CONTINUES

Now, I have to brag about my staff a little bit. I have five news reporters, and this is the first real journalism job for two of them. Two others haven’t been out of school long. Kate’s my veteran, and if I recall, she’s still under a decade.

I have an assignment editor (equivalent of a city editor) who has been in her role less than two years after working in features for several. We had only one of our two photographers in town at the time because the other was shooting sports at state tournaments. We were also down a copy editor, so we only had three on hand for several days. We have no web editor. That is a role shared throughout the newsroom by a variety of people. In fact, everyone has some role in participating.

Together the group was fantastic. We had been working since February on a digital strategy to improve our multiplatform coverage, and they were truly on fire, with Tweets from everyone of them both from the field and in the office. Regular web updates, all the while building on the stories that we refined for print and had our copy editors throw together on a tight deadline (with me hovering over them). Then stories came in after deadline, and we kept reporting them online anyway, well after midnight.

Having a plan for digital that we were actively building and using every day made disaster coverage with very limited resources something that was manageable and gave readers the most real-time information we could offer. We’ve since met to discuss adjustments and ideas for improvements.

Ultimately, I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ll also note that my publisher, who jumped in her car the moment I called, came back to the office and handled phone calls for the newsroom so we could get our work done. The calls were coming in from all over the world, especially news organizations trying to get any information they could quickly. Our circulation director, production manager and advertising director showed up too, bearing food, moving ads off of the website to help handle the extra traffic and generally offering support.

* Earlier: Chicago Tribune thanks Boston Globe for marathon bombing coverage, sends pizzas (