News Hole


Local media marshaled their resources to cover the bridge collapse

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Playing It Big
Excerpted from a memo by Pioneer Press Editor Thom Fladung, Thursday, August 2

  • Reporters Alex Friedrich, Fred Melo, and David Orrick were the first dispatched to the scene. They immediately began feeding Web and print stories and haven’t stopped yet.
  • Photographers Brandi Thomas, Scott Takushi, Ben Garvin, and John Doman got us pictures fast. One of Thomas’ images was on the front page of the Pioneer Press, USA Today, and The New York Times.
  •’s Karl Raschke captured and posted some of the first audio from the scene on Wednesday.
  • A visual and word team — including Dana Albrecht, Ben Ramsden, Jessica Fleming, Mike Decaire, Jason Cook, Neal Lambert, and others — organized a ton of copy, photos, and graphics into the coherent package you saw. They also played it big — really big.
  • MaryJo Webster dug into federal and state reports and dug out fascinating facts—including reports of inspectors saying the bridge may need to be replaced in 2005.
  • Chris Snowbeck … quickly pulled together a story that helped me understand the obscure world of bridge inspections.
  • John Brewer and Paul Tosto took feeds from numerous reporters and wove them into a news lede-all with an emotional story of the survivors, victims, and witnesses.
  • Bob Sansevere left the canceled Timberwolves press conference and turned his attention to a column about one of the survivors that helped give our coverage a distinctive stamp.
  • traffic was the best ever. Tim Nelson … got the Mn/Dot video of the bridge collapsing—the single most-watched item on the most-watched day.

    The Star Tribune: Flood It!
    Compiled and edited from Star Tribune Reader’s Representative Kate Parry’s column “First a scramble, then a very long, sad night,” published August 11

  • Reporter Kevin Giles saw a “huge brown cloud” on his way home. He called night editor Pam Miller and told her, “something’s wrong on the bridge.”
  • In the newsroom, the usually flat, incessant chatter of the police radio turned staccato. News assistant Tim Labatt noticed the change and announced that it looked like a bridge had collapsed.
  • Managing Editor Scott Gillespie turned to Duchesne Drew, assistant managing editor for local news, and simply said, “Flood it.”
  • Will Tacy, editor of diverted multimedia intern Vanessa House from a Timberwolves news conference. She followed a fire truck and ambulance to the scene and began shooting video.
  • By 6:15 p.m., reporters were on the scene. Ellen Lorentzson, photo editor for news, called a Blaine airport to rent a helicopter. They told her Dave Denney, another photo editor who lives nearby, was already there.
  • Editors and reporters on their way home headed back. People who normally cover theater became disaster reporters. Editors became reporters.
  • Kevin Duchschere was one of the first reporters out the door. As he ran toward the bridge, he first met children who had been on a school bus.
  • Photographer Brian Peterson, struggling for a vantage point, peered up at the Riverview Condos. He saw a woman, many floors up, on her balcony. “Can I come up?” he yelled. ”Sure,” she replied. Photographers have camped in her condo ever since.
  • Photographers started returning by 7 p.m. with the first glimpses of what happened.
  • Regina McCombs, senior multimedia producer, put the first video of victims online.
  • About 100 journalists worked to get it all done by deadline, after midnight. The online staff updated the website all night.

    Minnesota Public Radio: Bringing out the Best
    Compiled by Jennifer Haugh, Minnesota Public Radio

  • All Things Considered host Tom Crann learned of the collapse just after 6:15 p.m. Gathering as much information as he could, he interrupted Marketplace at 6:44 p.m. to tell listeners what had transpired.
  • Reporters Annie Baxter, Marisa Helms, Jess Mador, Dan Olson, and Tom Scheck were immediately dispatched. Newsroom’s Web Intern Charlie Knutson was sent to take pictures to supplement our online content.
  • At about 6:50 p.m., Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer—who happened to be in the vicinity of the collapse at the time—went on the air via cell phone to describe what she had seen. “I’ve covered a lot of bad stuff over the years where there is great destruction and death,” she said later, “but this particular event still has me rattled.”
  • At 7:30 p.m., Mike Mulcahy joined Crann back at the studio to assist with live updates. Sam Choo produced the show full-time that evening, despite the fact that it was his wedding anniversary. The whole team remained, covering the story live until 10:45 p.m. that night.
  • By Tuesday, every available reporter—20 out of 24, including four reporters from MPR’s greater Minnesota bureaus in Moorhead, Rochester, Worthington, and Collegeville—was assigned to the unfolding story. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting issued an emergency grant for $25,000 to help cover additional reporting expenses and meet the increased demands of global audiences tuning in to our online news.
  • Additionally, MPR’s existing Public Insight Network, a citizen journalism model, immediately began to collect images and stories from eyewitnesses.
  • Three or four people will be assigned to the ongoing stories emerging from the bridge collapse over the next 18-24 months.
  • News Director Bill Wareham is proud of his staff’s professionalism in the wake of this tragedy. “An event like this will bring out the best or worst in people. In this newsroom, it brought out the best.”

    Local TV Ratings, August 1–2

    The bridge collapse at 6:05 p.m. came as local TV was just beginning its dinner-hour news. By 7 p.m., channels 4, 5, 9, and 11 were doing non-stop coverage.

    Most viewers tuned to WCCO-TV (Channel 4). (16.7 rating/26 share)

    KARE11-TV was second, (13.1/19); followed by KSTP TV (Channel 5), (12.7/19); and KMSP-TV (Channel 9), (6.5/10).

    At midnight WCCO, KARE, and KMSP returned to regular programming. Only the locally owned KSTP continued through the night with uninterrupted bridge coverage—and kept going until 7 p.m. Thursday, when it finally switched back to ABC entertainment programming, including Ugly Betty.

    On Thursday evening at 10 p.m., WCCO again led the ratings, (13.5/25); followed by KARE, (9.3/19); KSTP (7.4/14); and KMSP (6.1/11). —BL


    Website Page Views on Thursday, August 2
    (average is 350,000 – 365,000)
    4.6 million
    (average is two million)


    80 Percentage of local bloggers who wrote about the I-35 bridge the night it fell. Some hadn’t posted in six months, according to MNSpeak editor Max Sparber, who linked to every local post he could find on the topic.

    18,000 Number of images posted on Flickr the night of the bridge collapse.

    350 Number of videos on YouTube related to the bridge collapse, as of August 16. Some of the videos posted August 1 have registered more than 100,000 views.



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