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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 7, 2010

Advertiser staff conquers 2 challenges

By Mark Platte

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Spectators look down Ponahawai Street from Kapiolani Street, about four blocks upslope of Hilo Bay, to watch for the tsunami predicted to hit because of the Chile earthquake. Police enforced a mandatory evacuation along the bay.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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We had two tsunamis at the end of last month: the one that hit the newsroom and the one two days later that frightened the state before arriving with a whimper.

The Advertiser mobilized superbly on both counts. Our staff put up online stories, photos and video quickly as our corporate parent Gannett Co. announced Feb. 25 we were being sold to our competitor, David Black of Oahu Publications Inc.

Knowing that they might not have jobs after the deal is closed, staff members put aside their feelings and provided five pages of news coverage and nine news stories, proving that nobody in Hawai'i covers a big story like The Advertiser. The outsized coverage may have annoyed those who don't believe an ownership change of the state's largest media organization is news, but was proper for the momentous shift that is about to occur in the media landscape.

With only a day's break, staff members again jumped into action late Friday night and throughout the morning Saturday to cover the potential of a dangerous tsunami. Again the staff rose to the occasion, some arriving in the dark early morning hours, fanning out to the Neighbor Islands and all areas of O'ahu to feed our Web site throughout the day.

The sleep-deprived staff produced 35 breaking tsunami news stories, 13 videos and six photo galleries, updated constantly throughout the day. Realizing that readers would be coming to our site from all over the world, we decided to send two videographers to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and booked a room on the 28th floor of the Rainbow Tower.

We live-streamed a shot of Waikk Beach as the tsunami was expected to hit and The New York Times Web site linked to our livestream, drawing 28,000 peak simultaneous viewers, a record for Gannett Web sites and surpassing even the inauguration of President Obama. USA Today and the Huffington Post also linked to our live-stream coverage.

We nearly tripled our daily page views for Feb. 27, with 1.3 million on that day alone. We usually have 60,000 unique visitors on a Saturday, and on Feb. 27, we hit 313,000.

The print edition the next day contained 12 stories, 17 photos, a timeline of the tsunami's arrival and a graphic showing how tsunamis develop and travel.

It was a tense few days, and we were especially relieved when the tsunami threat passed, but our staff, on very little rest and still full of emotion about their future, produced two exemplary packages on two of the biggest news stories in some time.

Mark Platte is senior vice president and editor of The Advertiser. Reach him at 525-8080. Or follow his Twitter updates at http://twitter.com/markplatte.