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Beaumont Newspaper Determined to Keep Printing


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Ron Franscell is the managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. The newspaper, with a circulation of 60,000, serves the coastal area of Texas and Louisiana where Hurricane Rita came ashore. Franscell was one of a few of the paper's staff who stayed in Beaumont through the storm to make sure the paper would be able to get out an edition today.

Thanks for being with us, Ron.

Mr. RON FRANSCELL (Managing Editor, Beaumont Enterprise): Thank you for having me. I'm glad to be here.

ELLIOTT: Tell me where you were when the storm hit.

Mr. FRANSCELL: Well, we were all hunkered down inside our newspaper building for the most part. The three-story masonry and concrete building, we felt pretty safe.

ELLIOTT: What happened to the building?

Mr. FRANSCELL: Terrible things happened to the building. About 3:30, a big part of it caved in and, in short order, other parts caved in and pretty soon we had a flood from above and...

ELLIOTT: What did you do?

Mr. FRANSCELL: We took as much of the computer equipment and personal things as we could to the next floor down, but suddenly we were worried that this water that was coming in--into the third floor, of course, is going to have to go one direction and one direction only and that is down. And down was where we were.

One particular moment, I think it was around 5 AM, we were busily calling around the country, literally, on cell phones, each of us, to people we knew who might be watching TV who could describe for us where the eye of the hurricane was, where we were roughly positioned in this hurricane. That way we'd know roughly how much time we could expect to be under fire, so to speak. And the reason was we had a choice: we could round everybody up and make our way through the storm to another building nearby, or we could try to ride it out and hope that the storm cleared here before that water and--well, and other problems--had swamped the floors where we'd taken refuge.

ELLIOTT: What decision did you make?

Mr. FRANSCELL: Well, we decided to stay. We decided that at--I think at that moment that the storm probably had another two hours of serious business to do with us. And fortunately, it was the right decision. The storm cleared here before anything serious happened to the floor where we were staying.

ELLIOTT: In addition to managing the newspaper, you also write a Web blog. Last night on your blog you wrote, `I'm not sure why we think we might deflect a 500-mile-wide hurricane by throwing a scrap of paper worth 50 cents at it. Maybe it's like so many things we do in life. It just makes us feel that we did something.' I'm curious. Were you able to get the paper out today?

Mr. FRANSCELL: You know, I haven't. I haven't had a chance. As soon as we could--as soon as we realized the storm was clearing and that we were going to be safe, we turned back into newspaper people and decided that we needed to be out on the streets as much as possible. And, in fact, I was one of the reporters that went out and drove 70-so miles up north just to see the damage to some of the smaller communities.

ELLIOTT: What did you find?

Mr. FRANSCELL: It's awful. There are trees down. There are very large trees around which three people could probably not link their arms that have been uprooted and just tipped over, buildings picked up and turned on their head. But so far, no deaths have been reported, but it's done its damage and we'll be a while in recovering from that.

ELLIOTT: Ron Franscell is the managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise in Beaumont, Texas.

Thanks for joining us.

Mr. FRANSCELL: You bet. Well, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.