The Friday incident of strange substances sent to Congressional members' Aberdeen offices is the most recent example of journalists "showing their work."
Rather than slowly file a story for the next day's print version and maybe — just maybe — a Web version before that, our staff last week did incremental, almost minute-by-minute reporting to keep citizens informed.
Having the tools and skills to do that kind of reporting is key. We ask our staff to do that all the time, but in cases of public safety, it's even more important.
All told on Friday, our newsroom was responsible for more than 50 updates on several different platforms, all within the span of just a few hours.
Tweeting and updates began almost immediately. When we learned the US Bank building, at 320 S. First St., had been evacuated and streets had been blocked off for emergency crews about 1 p.m., we verified in person and posted our first Web update at 1:19 p.m.
From there, reporter Scott Feldman took to Twitter — @sfeldman_AAN — posting incremental details as they became available. All we knew was there was a hazardous material situation, but we could not report more until verified. Once he had that information, Feldman began adding details: no one injured or sick; envelopes found at the offices of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in US Bank, as well as Republican Rep. Kristi Noem's office at the Capitol Theatre building; and an explanation of who and how many hazmat team members were going into the building.
We kept people up-to-date with smartphone text alerts, the first one letting folks know that downtown streets were blocked; the second with the mysterious substance information.
Photographer John Davis contributed his photography for updates; and videographer Will Elkins quickly put together a video showing the hazmat process.
Finally, we told readers that an unopened tea bag was found in Johnson's envelope. Feldman even asked specific questions about the tea bag itself. We did not speculate, and all that information was verified.
By the time readers saw the story in print Saturday morning, the concern from all was much lower.
But in those early few minutes and hours, good reporting can keep people safe and informed.
We have been planning our Nonprofit Spotlight columns for the rest of 2013.
There are 26 Sundays left in the year, and we have 27 nonprofit groups on our mailing list. Each one is invited to pick a Sunday during that six months to write a column. Magically, we will find room for all 27.
As a matter of fact, we always want more groups involved.
The list of groups in our rotation skew heavily to those in Aberdeen proper. But what about the nonprofits in surrounding counties? Historical societies, charitable groups, service clubs?
Consider this your invitation to join the Nonprofit Spotlight rotation.
Contact me at email@example.com, or 605-622-2300. I can tell you how it works and get you into our list.
With the start of early voting in Aberdeen today, it's a good time for a reminder: All election letters must be received here by May 30. We will not publish election letters received after that day.
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