My old pal Michael Higdon — an editorial designer for Swift Communications of Carson City, Nev. — writes today to tell us about what he and his desk went through Tuesday in the wake of the horrific shootings at an area IHOP restaurant.

First, a quick look at the players.

A 2009 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Michael worked a summer internship with the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., was a Pulliam Fellow at the Indianapolis Star and an summer fellow at the Poynter Institute. He also did some work for NASA during his final year in Reno.

He started work for Swift in June of 2009 as an ad designer and slid back to the editorial side in May 2010, at Swift new editorial design hub. Find his personal portfolio here.

I had dinner with him when I was in that area earlier this summer:

Emily Stott — below — studied journalism at the University of Stirling in Scotland and graduated from the University of Reno with Michael in 2009.

Also, Michael warns us that…

…Emily and I wrote this together. Did it in third person so you could keep track of who did what.

So I hope the shifting tense doesn’t — you know — make you tense.

Here’s their story:

Mike and Emily both woke up to text messages Tuesday about the shooting in Carson City.

Since we work later deadlines, neither of us got to work until a few hours after the event started. At this point, the story was still unfolding and there wasn’t enough information to start worrying about pages just yet. The local newsrooms in Gardnerville and Carson City were working together to run a live blog, collect facts from authorities and update their respective websites.

They took turns running a “Cover it Live” chat in the main [online] story because [this kind of chat is] very popular in the area and allowed us to answer specific questions. Also, with comments turned off from our websites, it made more sense to use this. The editors restricted any comments with speculation about the events. This actually worked out, as comments on the [competing paper] Reno Gazette Journal almost instantly degraded into conversations about tea partyers, Obama and racism.

Our central design desk was in charge of laying out five newspapers on Tuesday. Keith Sheffield and Kelly Davis took point on the earlier deadline paper, which did not run the story. This gave Mike time to start working on a map graphic for the Carson City paper…

…and Emily time to mock up A1 for the Gardnerville paper.

Both pictures there are by staffer Shannon Litz.

Average daily circulation for the Record Courier of Gardnerville, by the way, is about 7,500. Gardnerville is about 20 minutes south of Carson City, where the shooting took place.

Mike laid out A1 for the Fallon paper (located 1 hour, 15 minutes away). They ran the shooting story as one of two stories on A1.

That lead photo, also, is by Shannon Litz.

The Lahontan Valley News of Fallon is about an hour and 15 minutes away. Average daily circulation is about 4,046.

Michael also laid out the A1 for the South Lake Tahoe paper. This was not originally budgeted as the only story for A1, but late-breaking news revealed that the shooter worked at a family business in South Tahoe, so the editor opted to run the story larger.

The lead picture here is by Cathleen Allison of the Associated Press. The secondary art is the one shot by Shannon Litz and used on the front of the Gardnerville paper.

Average daily circulation for the Tahoe Daily Tribune is 8,962.

Originally, editor Annie Flanzraich wanted to run a photo of one of the bodies covered in a blanket. This was one of the closest photos available at the time and told the story well. Keith and others did not like the idea of running the body photo because identities had not been released. I was conflicted, as I agreed with Annie but did not like that combat boots were clearly visible in the photo, which would might identify this person to family and friends.

Most likely, Michael is referring to this picture by the AP’s Cathleen Allison:

During the conversation, the current photo was located. This was a better choice because of the active officer, the gun shots in the windows and other details. There is some blood visible in the digital version of this photo, am unsure if that detail can be seen in print.

There appear to be a few splatters just below the cop’s pointing finger. I’m guessing that’s it. If Michael hadn’t mentioned it, however, I wouldn’t have noticed it.

Emily laid out A1 for the Carson City paper. The editor she worked with indicated that he wanted a quote headline to sum up the story (Annie also saw this headline and changed hers), three bullet points to pull out key facts, a mug with bio and two stories with two photos. It’s a lot to cram onto a tabloid-sized paper. Emily asked if she could move the teasers and index info that’s usually located on the left-hand rail of the page to the bottom of the page so we could give the story more room (This has been a permanent fixture since the tabloid redesign several years ago).

She grabbed a shot from the scene for the main photo. A late candlelight vigil provided us with a nice community reaction photo.


Both of those lead photos are by Shannon Litz. The candlelight vigil picture is by staffer Jim Grant.

We had three additional pages of content on the inside, which we filled with jumps, more community reaction, additional photos from the scene and the map by Mike that showed the various businesses involved in the incident, as well as which buildings were hit with bullets.

Here is page three…

…and here are pages four and five.


At about 10 p.m. we received word that a female national guard member who had been injured had died at the hospital. We rushed to update the South Tahoe paper right as it was on its way to the press. We also learned that we would be receiving 911 tapes at 11:45 p.m., 15 minutes before the Carson deadline. This meant we were updating the Carson stories up to deadline.

Here’s the final edition of the Carson City newspaper:

The newest version of the story that printed in the Nevada Appeal is quite a bit more detailed, updated and written differently than all the others, making it fresh for the morning edition. It is also the most accurate version currently available since the final information released after late news.

Average daily circulation for Swift Communications’ flagship paper, the Appeal, is 15,885.

Find today’s lead story here.