Monday, November 26, 2007

'Online' offline

UPDATE
Late Monday night our crew finally found the culprit that crashed the system. I'm probably not at liberty to divulge much about the details -- some of which I don't understand anyway -- but it had to do with a database handling our classified advertising. Ouch.

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Time was -- and it was not that long ago -- that when there were news developments, the best we at the Telegraph Herald could do was write about it and print it in the next edition. And if your next edition was 12 or 18 or 23 hours away -- oh well, that's too bad.

Then Al Gore invented the Internet, and things started to change. News could be posted to the Web, without regard to press schedules or the availability of carriers to deliver a print product.

We've had the Telegraph Herald Web site www.THonline.com, for nearly 12 years. But only in the past couple of years have we used it much for posting breaking news alerts, ongoing story updates, new stories, evening sports scores and video clips.

Time was we didn't know what to do with the site. Now, we don't know what we'd do without it.

We were reminded of that today, when THonline experienced a major meltdown. For most of the day, the site was unavailable. Even this evening, nearly 12 hours after the crash, the regular site is down -- though we have placed our "mobile" (text only) version on the site.

The last I heard, our technical crew was trying to sort out the problem.

Meanwhile, breaking news continued. Authorities confirmed the identity of a Dubuquer killed in a highway accident. Former President Bill Clinton set a campaign stop for Tuesday in Peosta. But for hours we had no way to get the word out. It was not as critical or disruptive as a printing-press breakdown or major snowstorm -- the timing and coordination of physically moving and delivering tens of thousands of newspapers each day is a challenge even on a good day -- but it has been frustrating nonetheless.

A newspaper is more than ink on paper. It is news gathering and dissemination -- on more than one delivery platform. Today, one of those platforms failed us, but the experience has reminded us of our increased capabilities of delivering the news more than just once a day.

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