Monday, April 21, 2014

the night the lights went out!

New York the dark

The East Black Out                                                                   repost

Bernie Shaw (later with CNN)...and a bunch of other pretty good radio news folks and I were handling the night shift at Chicago’s  first all news station,  WNUS,  back in 1965.  
Then the lights went out.
Not in Chicago...but in New York City, Washington DC,  Boston, Philadelphia and all up and down the eastern half of the country.
I was in charge of the shift..with each newsman reading twenty minutes of news and sports and then handing off to the next guy for the same.  all of the sudden our many wire machines (we had about a dozen) started slowing down and then quitting.  I warned everyone to hold on to whatever copy they might have...they might need it.
Meantime...our inside phone rang and it was AP audio in Washington.  They had phones...but no power so they couldn’t fed anything about what was happening.

     They wondered if there was anyway we could fed out to their multitude of stations across the country?
I told them I’d call the phone company and inquire.
America lucked out that bad powerless night.
At the Bell Telephone office in Chicago...there just happened to be a guy like me...a guy who never said “it can’t be done”.
Sadly, even to this day I don’t know his name...maybe I never knew it but  do know that he got it done.  First, he called the AP Audio office in DC and asked to talk to one of their tech people.  He got the answers he needed and within thirty minutes...that’s thirty short minutes... he had us set up to feed AP Audio reports on the blackout all across the country. addition to doing our own three newscasts each hour...I now had to staff for intaking and feeding out reports on the power outage as AP Audio from entity which hadn’t existed a half hour earlier.
And on and on it went through the night until Washington called us hours later to thank us profusely (we later received plaques, awards and stuff) and to tell us the lights had come back on.
Just another day in the newsroom.

I remember one story I got while at that Chicago news station.
The mighty Mississippi River was flooding as always but this time a bunch of folks got stranded on an island and the Illinois National Guard had to rescue them.  
It was late a night an we weren’t getting much information as to the status of the stranded people and I dialed the long distance operator asking her to connect me with an operator in that area of Illinois along the river.  
She did so...and I ask that operator to connect me with the rescue units trying to get to the people.  She did...and we fell into quite a story because of it.     I had tapes rolling (as always) and talked with the officer in charge of the guard detail waiting to reach the island.  Then the operator came back on the line and asked if I wanted to talk to the people on the island?
Ha!  Of course I said and I heard a ring and though I never found out how they had a phone (this was long before Cellular or mobile phones were invented)  I was talking to person after person stranded on the small island with water lapping nearer and nearer by the minute.
     I probably could not do that again..because telephone systems today would be somewhat restrictive for hot shot reporters.

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