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COLUMN: Times changing, even for weekly paper

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Technology kept us on top of weather issues like never before

By John Herndon

Times really are changing, even in a weekly newspaper.

The truth is, they might be changing as much or more than any other news medium with the way we distribute information to our readers.

Such was the case Friday in a news day as fluid as one could ever imagine in a small-town newspaper. You probably won't find us chasing after fired coaches or trying to track down a technician to give us an update on when the lights will be coming on at a football game.

But Friday was a perfect example of how news is distributed, the technology available and the importance of staying on top of things up to the minute.

In case you missed it, the Anderson County boys' basketball team was scheduled to travel to Rockcastle County for a game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The girls' team was to have hosted Shelby County in a 30th District game, also at 7:30 p.m.

Of course, Ol' Man Winter threw a wrench into everyone's plans by dumping a little snow on the ground early Friday morning, prompting Anderson County, and nearly every other public school system in the area, to call off classes that day.

As is my usual practice on game day, I did not drive in to the office until late that morning. I found the main roads to be clear but also very wet, meaning they could refreeze. That meant the fate of the night's games was not certain.

Thankfully, by utilizing my Twitter account, The Anderson News Facebook page and our website, www.theandersonnews.com, we were able to keep fans of both teams informed.

Shortly after 11 a.m., I got a text message from Anderson County athletic director Rick Sallee that the girls' game would be played at 6 p.m. with no junior varsity game. Within just a few minutes, I had put the information on all three places in cyberspace and had utilized my own personal Facebook page as a courtesy as well.

I might add that our friends at The Sentinel-News in Shelbyville picked up the information too, as their sports editor, Josh Cook, had taken his wife, in labor, to a hospital that morning. By the afternoon, they were parents of a baby girl. In a matter of just a few minutes using my iPhone, I was able to reach many of the sports fans in two counties.

A bit later, however, Sallee got back with me, saying that Shelby County’s Central Office would not allow a bus to go out, so the game was canceled and rescheduled for Monday with time to be announced.

Within a few minutes that information was out as well.

In the meantime, Sallee let me know that the Anderson boys’ game at Rockcastle was still on but they were moving the start time up to 6:30. That news was out within a couple of minutes too.

Don’t you just love high school sports?

Such real-time reporting would not have been possible just a few years ago. Sure, I could have put something on our website if I had access to a computer. But much of what happened on Friday was reported over a phone and it was accurate to the minute we put it out.

The old way? Word of mouth, phone calls and often a message left with the person answering phones at The Anderson News. We really did get inquiries about games scheduled during inclement weather.

We at The Anderson News want to give you the latest news you want. I thank my Twitter followers and Facebook friends and fans who allow us to do so.

 

Bad weather policy

What happened last week again focused on how schools should treat ball games and other extra-curricular activities when snow or any form of bad weather cancels classes for a day.

On the one hand, some school districts have a blanket policy of “no school, no play,” meaning that if school is called off, everything else is automatically canceled too. Those who support such a policy often argue, “If it is too bad to go to school, it is too bad to play ball.”

Of course, the flip side to that argument is that oftentimes, roads are often clear by late morning or lunch time and travel is not hazardous by that time.

Admittedly, though, the blanket-policy would make game-day decisions much easier. What it would do to make-up games and activities is another matter.

Anderson County, and many other districts, play things by ear, making the decision on playing sometime before noon. That allows time to contact officials, bus drivers and fans about the game status.

That can be a little tougher on game day, but it seems to serve kids best. Friday, unfortunately, was one of those days where the main roads were in good shape by noon but there were questions about later in the day. It was really a no win situation.

I have been writing sports for 28 years now and cannot remember any bus accident involving Anderson County kids caused by the weather. Obviously, they can happen, but I truly believe that those making the decisions have the kids' best interest at heart.

May that attitude continue.

 

Follow John Herndon on Twitter.com at AnewsJPHerndon.