Andrew Holden is editor of The Press in Christchurch, New Zealand. Over the past 12 months, his city has been battered by three major earthquakes and nearly 10,000 aftershocks. The most serious quake, on February 22, saw Press offices destroyed. Some staff members were seriously injured, and one lost her life – but the Press managed to get a paper to its community at a time when readers were desperate for information. Mr Holden will speak at the PANPA Future Forum about a challenging and extraordinary year – and the value of print and online in a crisis.
On what the industry can learn from our colleagues in disaster-hit Christchurch:
The determination and commitment of our staff is far greater than we can ever imagine.
Print is not dead, but newsrooms must be technologically equipped. And planning for disasters is not something that belongs on a piece of paper.
On how the quakes changed life at The Press:
We wouldn’t be working in porta-cabins on the fringes of an industrial area for starters!
[Our journalists] understand and are committed to multimedia journalism; the only thing holding them back is how quickly we can equip them.
They support each other, and colleagues in other departments, far more than ever before.
On why the benefits of belonging to a networked national company – which made it possible for The Press to get a paper to readers on February 23 – outweigh the setbacks, which saw major Fairfax NZ titles fail to publish last week:
It was easy for those of us in Christchurch to keep things in perspective. We hated losing an edition of the paper, but when papers have been delivered through quakes and a major dump of snow (one week before the computer failure), and people have lost family members and homes in the quakes, we can accept that missed edition.
More importantly, we are able to keep to people across the country and even across the ditch working for us, even if their family circumstances or own preferences mean they have to move.