A message to our readers

When I walked into the Sentinel building Monday morning the lobby was packed with agitated customers, and we still did not have an operating printing press. For two days we printed The Daily Sentinel at the Montrose Daily Press. Last week’s Sunday edition didn’t land on most doorsteps until 5 p.m.

That weekend was a sleepless, chaotic glimpse of hell.

I was focused for the preceding 31 hours on getting (1) a newspaper on the street and (2) a master electrician to address the electrical problems we could not remedy. Our regular electrician was on his honeymoon out of state and beyond cellphone service. We were desperately trying to fly in experts from around the country who knew something about the exotic, pre-computer electrical panels that control our German-made printing press.

And then the telephone rang.

Our head press operator, Lonnie Vincent, received a call from a man who just happened to be in town, who just happened to hear about our press problems, who just happened to be an electrical engineer and master electrician, and who just happened to have experience with that exotic electrical system on our press. Later that morning he showed up at the Sentinel and said, “I think I can help.”

He spread out the yellowing schematics on a table and started asking pointed questions.

Within an hour-and-a-half he had the problem diagnosed. By 4 p.m. we had an operating printing press.

I owe Vaughn DeCrausaz a boatload of gratitude. Don’t you love it when someone actually exceeds your expectations? It’s a rare and fulfilling pleasure.

I’ve always been more lucky than good, but DeCrausaz’s willingness to help was beyond serendipitous. Ironically, we had authorized a complete overhaul of the electrical system on our press just a month ago. It’s still being built and remains a few weeks away from installation.

What a humbling ordeal. But we’re past it, and our press is back to its three-story, beastly normalcy.

Here are a few items of interest that came out of last weekend’s upheaval:

Sunday we fielded 5,500 telephone calls. I know that comes as little consolation to those who called here to find nothing more than a busy signal, but our telephone system was completely overwhelmed. We couldn’t even call out.

There was a line of Sentinel readers outside the building most of the morning. Some were, well, less than pleased at having not received a newspaper. Others were understanding once they received an explanation.

A few members of our press crew somehow loaded 16 1,000-pound rolls of paper (100 percent recycled, as always) onto a tractor-trailer in about 15 minutes and hauled them down to Montrose. By operation of more incredible fortune, our paper rolls actually fit the new Montrose press. The Montrose press crew, having just finished their own press run, returned to print 31,000 editions of The Daily Sentinel.

Legend holds that when the Sentinel experienced a similar breakdown in the 1990s the head pressman, Duke Langford, actually took a chain saw to our paper rolls to make them fit on Montrose’s old press. I am told that no one around here really believed the story, but Duke told it with an unflinching straight face. Having come to know these press operators the way I do, I think Duke’s story may be true. These press guys are tough as nails. And as resourceful as Marines.

Finally, I owe too many thank-yous to list all the names, but I was so impressed by our head of circulation, Tracy Gettman. She jumped into the breach with remarkable gusto when things looked really grim. We would not have produced a paper last Sunday without Dave Drayer, our prepress manager. And while our head press operator, Lonnie Vincent, did not hoist a chain saw, he and his team did rise to the occasion.

And finally, thanks to everyone in our mailroom for the extra time and effort, our newsroom for hitting early deadlines, our drivers for delivering two papers on Sunday, and all of our carriers for their extraordinary efforts.

And I apologize to all of the Sentinel spouses awakened by the telephone calls at 2:15 a.m. And the ones at 3:10. Oh, and the ones at 3:30. And also the ones at 4 a.m. And any other calls at an inappropriate hour that I can’t remember right now. Oh, and sorry for ruining all of your Sunday family plans.

Mostly, I want to thank the readers for accommodating our Sunday troubles. Fifty-five-hundred telephone calls later, I have an even greater appreciation for the role the daily newspaper plays in the lives of people in this valley.

— Jay Seaton, publisher


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