Last week's storm was unprecedented in more ways than one. Not only was the 14 inches of snow the city received a single-day record, it led to a decision by Tulsa World officials to suspend publication of the newspaper for the first time in its 106-year history, though the World continued to produce an online version.
Publisher Robert Lorton III cited the safety of the World's haulers and carriers as the basis for the decision not to print the newspaper Feb. 2-4.
Rick Edmonds, the media business analyst for the Poynter Institute -- a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based nonprofit school for journalists -- said the decision not to print an edition in the wake of a severe storm is unusual but not unprecedented for metropolitan daily papers, citing the example of the New Orleans Times-Picayune after Hurricane Katrina as the most well-known example. He said he wasn't aware of any other metropolitan daily paper that did not print an edition in the wake of this storm, which moved across the country over the course of several days, wreaking havoc in its path.
Historically, Edmonds said, newspapers have responded to such challenges by printing a limited number of copies and circulating them the best way they could. But publishers now have an alternative, he said.
"With the Web, I think a lot of people are just shifting online," he said, adding that the Times-Picayune chose that route after Hurricane Katrina and saw a huge increase in its online traffic. "We had that with some of our dailies here after we had a bad hurricane season five or six years ago."
There is little question the option of forgoing a print edition in favor of online publication in the aftermath of a severe storm is increasingly attractive to publishers, Edmonds said.
"I think it is, yeah, because there is an alternative way, and it's easier for all concerned than to get papers to subscribers' doorsteps, though it does leave some people out," he said, noting that many elderly subscribers do not have home computers.
Edmonds also said newspapers in some parts of the country may not face the same circulation challenges after a blizzard as those in other regions where the removal of frozen precipitation is a bit of a novelty.
"It probably is kind of a distinction between what Minneapolis, Buffalo or Boston would have done (compared to) a part of the world that hardly ever gets snow," he said.
The Oklahoman published a newsprint edition throughout last week's blizzard.
Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley praised the paper's dedicated journalists in comments published on Feb. 2. Kelley said that technology helped snowed-in journalists build the paper remotely, which minimized the staff required at its Oklahoma City headquarters.
"Contrast that to years past, when our staff was forced to spend the night in The Oklahoman's offices, or hole up at a nearby hotel, to be available to produce the newspaper for the next day," he wrote.
The storm presented many of the same circulation hurdles to Urban Tulsa Weekly, though the paper's management was well prepared for those challenges, according to editor and publisher Keith Skrzypczak.
As a native Tulsan, Skrzypczak said he tends to take weather forecasts with a grain of salt. But when he heard predictions that last week's storm would bring 13 to 17 inches of snow, Skrzypczak began preparing for the worst.
"We started calling our vendors, advertisers and drivers and saying, 'Let's get this wrapped up so we can produce, print and deliver on time.' We did. Some of our drivers may have been a little bit late, and some of our distribution locations may have been closed, but we've never been a company driven by someone's inability to get things done.
"We are a print publication, and we will continue to be a print publication," he continued. "And we will continue to do what we say we will.
The day we don't deliver is the day Mr. Skrzypczak will start writing novel."
Weather or not
Last week's blizzard froze activity around the city. Events were canceled or postponed, and most local businesses were shuttered as quickly as the streets iced over.
But with a little creativity, planning and support from dedicated patrols, a handful of local business owners managed to dig out and stay open during the storm.
The Coffee House, 1502 E. 15th St., was open all week and did brisk business warming those who ventured out on foot to enjoy and play in the snow.
Owner Cheri Asher picked up employees who were snowed in, and said she let one of the café's bakers spend the night at her house.
"I'm hardcore," she said with a laugh as she navigated the aisles of Reasor's Foods last week, where she was buying chili supplies.
Asher closed the café early last week, but she said her baristas managed to serve from roughly 7am to mid-afternoon Tuesday-Friday.
The storm canceled most of the café's deliveries, but one supplier pulled through -- the milkman -- so Asher bought every bottle she could.
"We loaded up. Whatever he had, we took," she said.
The Coffee House uses lots of milk in its drinks, but doesn't normally sell it directly to customers, but Asher said customers were thrilled to buy gallons and half-gallons of milk and half-and-half, and avoid driving to the grocery store.
Some of Coffee Shop regulars even spent much of Wednesday shoveling snow in front of the café.
"They just came by and said 'We'll dig you out,'" she said. "We had tons of people out there helping us out."
Caffeine addicts weren't the only committed drinkers last week.
Mercury Lounge, 1747 S. Boston Ave., was open everyday during the storm, said owner Reggie Dobson.
"We didn't miss an hour," he said. "We're open 365 days a year, no matter what."
Dobson and his employees planned for cancelled beer delivers and decided to pick up the bar's order on Monday, before the blizzard hit. The bar was fully stocked all week, Dobson said, both with booze and thankful patrons.
"People need a place to go. They were just happy to not have to sit at the house," he said.
Mercury Lounge stayed open for its employees as much as its patrons, Dobson said.
"They have to make money, too," he said. "If we're closed, no one gets paid, and going more than a week without a paycheck means a lot of our rents aren't getting paid."
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