News travels fast

Last Wednesday, about 8 a.m., as we were busy putting the finishing touches on The New Prague Times and getting ready to send it to press, I took a phone call from Jay Schneider, our Waterville editor.

Jay asked me what was going on at the middle school in New Prague. He had heard from his police chief that there had been a shooting reported at the middle school.

Thus began two hours of controlled chaos here at the paper.

I sent reporter Patrick Fisher out to the middle school to report on the scene, then I made a few phone calls and tuned in to the police radio to get an idea of what was going on. By about 8:20, I had written a short story to put on our website. Patrick returned with a photo and I added that to the web story. All the while, I was continuing to finish up the last few pages of the paper, and I also moved a couple of stories off of the front page to make room for the breaking news.

I made some more phone calls and listened, and talked to Patrcick at the scene a few more times. By 9 a.m., police were convinced that the report was a hoax, and word on that began to trickle down through the various media on the scene.

Peace officers from throughout the area responded to the scene. Police Chief Mark Vosejpka said there are a lot of police officers from other towns who live in the community, and many of them have kids in the school system. Many of them responded to the scene. Scott County and Mayo Clinic Health System sent communications professionals to the scene to help with the media.

By about 10 a.m., Patrick had returned with more photos and information, and we made some changes to the story, got them into the newspaper and sent it off to press, about 45 minutes to an hour later than normal. The paper still got back to us in plenty of time for mailing. After the paper went to press, I replaced the story on the web with the story that appeared in the newspaper. I looked at the counter on the website and saw that we had more than 800 “reads” in the nearly two hours since the story was posted. We posted a followup story later in the afternoon. By then, the original story had more than 8,000 reads, and a search of Google News found that the story had spread all over the country.