In its 100-plus-year history, The Inter-Mountain hasn't missed publishing a single edition.
Thanks to support from key community businesses and a group of dedicated staff members, that publication record didn't change during the massive storm late last week that knocked out power to a five-state region, including most of West Virginia.
The storm hit the night of June 29, before The Inter-Mountain's complete Saturday edition for June 30 had been sent to press. By 9 p.m. that Friday, The Inter-Mountain's editorial staff members were left sitting in the dark - like most people in Randolph County and the surrounding region.
At one point, a storm update was being written by a lone candle, which illuminated the newsroom.
When power still hadn't returned by daylight and the prognosis was grim, Heather Goodwin Henline, publisher and general manager, was able to make an arrangement to print 10,000 copies of the June 30 newspaper at the Times West Virginian's facilities in Fairmont.
"Our staff worked throughout the night and into Saturday morning almost nonstop," Goodwin Henline said. "From making emergency phone calls to working to secure needed supplies, a printing location and a generator, they did not stop for more than 24 consecutive hours."
In addition, Elkins Fordland responded to a call for support when Jim Jackson, owner of Elkins Fordland, loaned a 2012 Ford Transit Connect to The Inter-Mountain to help transport newspapers from Fairmont to Elkins.
"We always try to stay involved in the community," Jackson said. "A lot of people depend on The Inter-Mountain - it's something they like to have every day. It really wasn't a tough decision to really try to help out. It was a time for the community to pull together."
Staff members loaded two of The Inter-Mountain's servers as well as two iMac computers into the Elkins Fordland van and headed to Fairmont to work on the newspaper. The Fordland vehicle was driven by Pressman Robert Gower. Inter-Mountain Production Supervisor Dave Ickes drove his personal vehicle to help with the delivery efforts.
Staff writer Melissa Toothman and freelance writer Beth Christian Broschart simultaneously gathered storm-related information from around the region and remained in the Elkins area.
While traveling, Editor Linda Howell Skidmore and staff writer Anthony Gaynor made calls to local emergency officials.
They were assisted on scene by Goodwin Henline; Commercial Print Director Matthew Burdette, who provided technical support with the equipment; Sports Editor Edgar Kelley; and Patrick "Mickey" Burdette, of the circulation department. Several pages still had to be completed, stories written and edited and production finished before the edition could be printed.
"Everyone who was involved in the process wanted to make sure we didn't miss an edition on our watch," Gaynor said. "The ultimate goal was getting a paper out to our readers to keep them informed."
Howell Skidmore added, "The Inter-Mountain has a history and a reputation of never missing a publication. Even in the 1970s, the newspaper office caught on fire and still they had a newspaper the next day."
That fire broke out Aug. 7, 1974, when The Inter-Mountain burned to the ground. The newspaper personnel literally ran from the fire, but still managed to band together under the watch of then-Editor Eldora Nuzum to put out the next edition.
At that time, The Inter-Mountain also had help from a local Ford dealership, which offered space in its showroom for newspaper composing equipment. During that crisis, the paper printed at what is now The Parkersburg News & Sentinel in Wood County.
"It appears that a local Ford dealership has come to our rescue on more than one occasion, and we are grateful to share that community bond and integral part of Inter-Mountain history," Goodwin Henline said.
The newspaper also weathered another disaster without missing an edition, when the devastating 1985 flood hit the area.
"Continuous publication is a long-standing tradition we take very seriously," Goodwin Henline said. "We knew our readers were counting on us to provide them with vital information about the storm and resulting outages. In many cases, we were their only access to emergency news. One way or another, we weren't going to stop until we completed that mission."
Saturday's paper finally made it back to The Inter-Mountain plant late in the evening. By 9 p.m., staff members hand-inserted the sections to form a complete edition and some carriers were able to begin delivery efforts. Personnel were on hand until after midnight Sunday morning to ensure each route had access to papers.
"The carriers really worked with us to service our customers. While not all routes were able to be delivered late Saturday or early Sunday because of the limited access to gasoline for the independent contractor's vehicles, I know everyone did their very best to get this edition where it belonged: in the hands of our readers," Goodwin Henline said. "I want to thank everyone for their patience and support during this time, especially our loyal customers."