Archive for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Weekly Ellsworth newspaper vows to continue after fire

June 21, 2011

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— Readers of the weekly Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter will get their newspaper this week even though a fire destroyed the paper's offices, editor and publisher Linda Mowery-Denning said.

No injuries were reported in the fire Sunday and the building's owners were able to escape safely. An investigation into the cause continues. The roof collapsed Sunday night on the nearly 100-year-old building and officials declared it a total loss.

The newspaper's seven-person staff is putting together Wednesday's edition on computers in the Ellsworth High School journalism department. Mowery-Denning had her laptop, which contained page templates, at home at the time of the fire and the high school computers use the same software that the weekly uses, she told The Salina Journal.

"Some people have acted surprised, but it was never a question," Mowery-Denning said Monday. "It never even occurred to us that we wouldn't get a paper out this week."

Several hundred firefighters from the area responded and worked until 1:30 a.m. Monday to keep the fire from spreading to adjoining downtown buildings, said Rod Job, interim director of Ellsworth County Emergency Management.

Mowery-Denning said she had received calls from news organizations around the state offering assistance. The Salina Journal and Kansas Press Association donated computers.

"The response by other papers has been overwhelming," Mowery-Denning said. "We've been really touched."

Great Bend Tribune Managing Editor Dale Hogg was "playing reporter" for Ellsworth on Monday. He told The Hutchinson Daily News that he didn't think twice about helping out.

"Linda is determined to get a newspaper out this week and that is vital because a small town like this depends on its newspaper and it's important that a newspaper like this perseveres," he said.

After this week's edition is published, the newspaper offices will relocate temporarily to another downtown building.

Mowery-Denning and Sharon Montague, now assistant editor of the Journal, launched the Independent in 1999. The newspaper subsequently entered a partnership with the Ellsworth Reporter's owner, Morris Multimedia, and became the Independent-Reporter. Another Morris paper, the Marquette Tribune, is also assembled in Ellsworth.

Pages of the Marquette paper that were ready to be sent to the printer were destroyed in the fire, but a staff member stayed up all night recreating the edition to meet a noon Monday deadline, Mowery-Denning said.

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