Monday, July 23, 2018

Publisher of Marshalltown, Iowa, Times-Republican tells readers how it dealt with 'catastrophic' tornado Thursday

An aerial photo by the T-R's Garry Brandenburg shows the damage to Marshalltown's business district.
Abigail Pelzer
When Marshalltown, Iowa, was alerted by a tornado warning Thursday afternoon, staffers of the daily Times-Republican took shelter in the basement, then "We heard it and we all knew it was going to be bad," Publisher Abigail Pelzer writes.

When the storm had passed and she went to the street, "The first wave of devastation hit us square in the face. Then I knew I had to get our news editor Emily Barske out of the basement and onto the streets with me. I kept drawing my hand close to my chest, seeking some sort of security from the shock of each passing step. We walked, gasped and shot photos."

The paper wanted to get the news out, but there was a higher priority, Pelzer writes: "Family comes first. It was vital to make sure our T-R family was safe and out of danger. Nearly all of our employees live in Marshalltown, own homes here, raise their families here. Nothing was more important that knowing, despite car damage, downed limbs and absent roofs, that they were OK. Then we did what we do best. We got boots on the ground and began collecting stories and photos. While posting to social media with spotty cell phone connections, we put a plan together to get out a newspaper. Without power, we relocated to the Tama News-Herald office, which houses our weekly papers. We mobilized our reporters and asked for help from our readers. We sought help from our colleagues in Webster City, who waited patiently to print this edition of the T-R. Our gracious friends in the newsroom at The Messenger in Fort Dodge are is sending two of their best to help us with coverage on Friday. Our former assistant copy editor, Pam Rodgers Pratt, joined us from Newton to work well into the night designing pages for us. Media friends from across the state have reached out and cheered us on. Without the generosity of our colleagues, friends and families we couldn’t have got work done, we couldn’t have printed a paper today."

The T-R's main online headline read, "Marshalltown devastated by catastrophic tornado." Here's the story. The T-R and the Messenger are owned by Ogden Newspapers.

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