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Who Turned Out The Lights?

August 14, 2008 - John Whittaker

Five years ago today, I was covering a Babe Ruth World Series game at Russell E. Diethrick Park when the lights went out.

The game - I was covering the team from Syracuse that eventually won the series for a paper in Syracuse - went on as planned since it was the middle of the day. The computers the Babe Ruth officials were using to send out game updates, however, had no power, there was no public address announcer and it kind of sucked that I wasn't able to get my normal allotment of nachos during the game. Partial power, enough to keep the games going, was restored to the park through the efforts of the Jamestown BPU staff, whose efforts to reroute power to the entire city are chronicled in today's edition of The Post-Journal.

After the game, I made my way down to the field, interviewed the players and coaches I needed to talk to and started to make my way to our office here in downtown Jamestown, where I could grab my desk, send my story and go home.

Because there was no power, I decided to meet up with some friends. The drive, which normally took me about 10 minutes, took almost a half an hour because every intersection along Third Street was a four-way stop (the extra time was not a problem - it sure beat getting into an accident).

While we were sitting around, I totaled up my scoresheet, transcribed my quotes and started writing my story longhand. It was maybe 45 minutes, as I was nearly done writing my story on paper, before the lights came on at Shawn's. There wasn't power yet in Jamestown, so I hopped on Shawn's computer and wrote the story. After my buddy Finn made a few editing suggestions, it was on its way to Syracuse. E-mail is an amazing thing.

I didn't find out until the next day how crazy that night was for everybody I worked with. I called the office during the blackout to see if the editors needed me to come in and help, but was told I wasn't needed (not that I minded, since I enjoyed the rest of the night off).

It turns out that editors and reporters packed their computers into their cars for the trip to Warren, where we were able to put our paper out at the Warren Times-Observer. Reporters who were working that night gathered the information they could, and we had several local stories about how people dealt with the blackout, and then had to drive to Warren to write their stories. The copy desk had to factor that delay into their work, wait for wire stories that were still figuring out the blackout, and then put the paper together. Even with no power until 11 p.m., the paper was out generally on time, which is amazing.

Where were you when the lights went out five years ago and what did you do?

Send me comments -- either at or sign in to the Post-Journal's Web site, it's free, become a member and post comments at the boittom of the blog. I don't want to say I'm begging or anything, but .... well, I AM. Please, pretty please, send me comments. I swear, I'll even respond!


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