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Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014

Breaking news that breaks the mold

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

(Photo)
Just in case you missed it, Monday's Banner Graphic front page was as unusual as it was historic.

The sanctity of our all-local front page was broken for one of the few times in the past 30-plus years when we carried the breaking news of the demise of Osama bin Laden on Page 1.

Not live. Not local. But definitely late-breaking.

In the past we have put such stories as the Sept. 11 attacks, the death of Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon, the wounding of President Reagan and the start of the first Gulf War on Page 1. The Challenger space shuttle explosion made it, of course. As did the shocking death of Elvis Presley and the reappearance of kidnapped (or not?) heiress Patty Hearst.

Elvis because ... well, he was Elvis. And Patty Hearst because of the old timing-is-everything cliché. Deadline was approaching. Page 1 was the only page left to finish when the story broke. We either used it there or not at all that morning. I chose to use it and beat the Indianapolis papers (Star and News back then) to the punch.

In most of the other instances, it was the magnitude of the event that resulted in using the story on Page 1 of an otherwise all-local front page. Easy decisions.

As was Sunday night's. Or so you might think.

Just wish I could say I was part of that decision-making. The right decision certainly was made, but the credit must go to my intrepid Assistant Editor Jared (don't-call-me-Jason) Jernagan and paginator Michael Logli who was putting the paper together that night.

When I left the office for home about 8 p.m. Sunday, everything was rolling along toward completion. We had a number of good local photos from a weekend that included Relay for Life and the Drug Take Back effort. I finished my story on the revision of the Judson Drive road project and called it a night and said my goodbyes to Michael and Sports Editor Caine Gardner.

All that was left was to proof the front and Page 2 (called the "jump page" in journalism lingo). Michael would be emailing those to me about 10 p.m. so I could read them at home and call in any changes. He even sent them early. And I proofed them quickly, settled in to watch the rest of "Desperate Housewives" (sad as that is to admit), figuring we were home free for the night.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Goss Community presses in the big front windows of the BG.

President Obama was due to speak to the nation at 10:30 p.m. concerning "a matter of national security," a fact I learned only as WGN, Chicago, was signing off from its newcast to go a special Sunday sports segment. It took a couple of minutes but my journalistic instincts crept in, despite my groggy head's position on a comfy bedroom pillow.

I wondered about the timing. What could be so important at this hour on a Sunday night? After checking out the Cubs' lowlights on WGN, I surfed on over to CNN.

Wolf Blitzer was imbedded there, telling us that sources were advising CNN that Osama bin Laden was dead. He didn't say "shot," but instead said "dead." So my first inclination was that Osama had succumbed to his old health issues.

As I was fighting sleep, I thought about calling the newsroom to see if Michael was aware of what was being said. But I looked at the bedroom clock (which I now realize is 15 minutes fast) and reasoned that it was far too late, the paper has been run on the press by now -- or so I thought.

With my cell phone plugged into the charger out in the kitchen, I wasn't aware that both Jared and Michael were texting and calling me, asking what I wanted to do about the situation.

My brain wanted to sleep, so I was dozing off, trying to hold on to hear Obama's remarks. I managed to keep my eyes open long enough to take in the brief address and turned the TV off, damning our rotten newspaper luck. Believe me, one big restless night of sleep followed.

So I was totally unaware that Jared was boldly making the executive decision to stop the presses (lord, I know he wanted to say that) before they even got started. Michael grabbed the first detailed Associated Press coverage of the speech when it finally became available, plugged it into the top spot on Page 1, and away we went.

When I made my way to the kitchen Monday morning, my cell phone showed all the missed calls and texts and a couple voicemails.

Tucked into my big, comfy bed I had obviously missed all the drama.

But the important thing is that Jared and Michael shined when I needed them the most, enabling us to share the big news with our loyal Banner Graphic readers.

I am proud of how they handled the situation, making the right call to delay the press run until we could get the Osama story. I am thrilled things turned out the way they did. But most of all, I am jealous.

Because darn it, I would have said it anyway: Stop the presses!