Thursday, September 13, 2007
People move to Routt County for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the relatively relaxed pace of life.
At the Pilot & Today, that pace can take some getting used to, particularly for those reporters who have spent time at metro newspapers, where significant news stories can break on a daily basis.
Here, we can go weeks and even months without a story that qualifies as "breaking news." Quite the opposite has been true during the past week, when three such stories hit the newsroom. Sadly, two of those stories had tragic endings.
The first story broke last Thursday, when police reported that a 1-year-old girl was found injured in her parents' Steamboat residence. The girl, Brianna Simon, was pronounced dead at Yampa Valley Medical Center later that day. That same night, Brianna's mother was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.
It was obvious from the start that the story would be a significant one. Accordingly, we sent out a breaking news alert and immediately published a story to steamboatpilot.com. The story was updated throughout the afternoon. We sent out another breaking news alert Friday morning, when we learned the mother, Luz Cisneros, had been charged with murder.
So what exactly is our breaking news alert? In short, registered users of our Web site can sign up to receive the alerts via cell phone, e-mail or both. The alerts are free, as is the straightforward user registration process. We typically send out the alerts as short, one- or two-sentence summaries of the news. We then refer recipients to our Web site, where they can find the detailed story.
Tragedy struck again Monday morning when a semitrailer crashed on Rabbit Ears Pass, killing the female passenger and closing down the highway. Again, we sent out a breaking news alert and published a story online. Doing so not only reported the news, but also informed motorists that they'd have to find an alternate route out of or into Steamboat Springs via U.S. Highway 40.
It came as a relief that Tuesday's breaking news alert didn't involve the county's first suspected murder in more than seven years or a fatal traffic accident. But Tuesday's story certainly had a significant effect on many residents.
Construction workers busted a water main at Bud Werner Memorial Library, thereby compromising the water quality for Steamboat homes and businesses from 11th Street west to the city limits. My neighborhood, West End Village, is among those affected by the city's no-drink order.
We first reported the story on our Web site at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. That version and subsequent updates included information about the city's no-drink order. Although the city used its reverse-911 system to call and inform residents about the incident, many people reported to us that they either didn't get the call or don't have landlines.
The water story provides a great example of how the breaking news alert can do more than simply inform our readers. Residents on their way home from work received a text message about the water main break. A quick check of steamboatpilot.com revealed they couldn't use their tap water for any purpose, including flushing a toilet. They also learned the no-drink order would be in place until Thursday and that the city was placing portable toilets at neighborhoods and commercial centers throughout the West side of town.
It's not often that a breaking news alert can have such an immediate impact on the lives of thousands of Steamboat residents. In the wake of Tuesday's incident, I hope more people sign up for the free service. You never know when breaking news will involve you.
On a lighter note, allow me to call your attention to a new feature that will run in our Friday sports section throughout the football season. We kicked off "This Week's Football Picks" last week, and fittingly, our first guest picker proved to be better than our "expert" staff, which includes yours truly. For his efforts, Jim Miller will receive a $20 gift certificate to The Tap House.
The game? Every week, one guest picker will choose the winner of 10 college and NFL games. His or her picks will be matched against those of our sports reporters, myself and Tap House owner Gary Saxe. If the guest picker wins, he or she will receive a Tap House gift certificate. It's free to play and just for fun. If you're interested in playing, e-mail Luke Graham at email@example.com or call 879-4229.
"From the Editor" appears Thursdays in the Steamboat Today. To contact Brent Boyer, call 871-4221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org