Now that things have settled down just a bit up that way — other than freak snowstorms, perhaps — visual journalists who were in the path of Hurricane Sandy now have time to fill us in on what it was like for them last week.

We’ll begin our series of looks back at Hurricane Sandy with the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

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THE WEEKEND BEFORE

The Star-Ledger was one of the first papers to use the word “Frankenstorm” on page one, on Friday, Oct. 26.

Over the next two days — as the storm passed us by down in Hampton Roads — the Star-Ledger played up locals lining up to fill up with gas (Saturday, Oct. 27, left)…

 

…and a local woman who was clearing out ahead of Sandy. She had suffered greatly after Hurricane Irene last year (Sunday, Oct. 28, right).

By Monday, residents in New Jersey knew that the storm was a) very nasty. And b) headed straight for them. Here was the Star-Ledger‘s front for Monday, Oct. 29.

Inside, the Star-Ledger covered several aspects of the story, including evacuees hunkering down at local shelters set up in school gymnasiums. Click on page three — or any of the inside pages here today — for a larger look.

Page five, below left, was a utility page filled with tips, resources and phone numbers to call.

 

And here were Monday’s pages seven and eight.

 

That night, though, the storm moved in with all its fury. Presentation editor Shawn Weston picks up the story…

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MONDAY, OCT. 29

Sometime in the evening, while in the heat of production for Tuesday’s paper, the lights in the newsroom flickered a couple of times as the eye of the storm approached the Jersey Shore, just south of Atlantic City. Storm made landfall around 8 p.m. Power went out around 9 p.m. in our newsroom.

Staffers waited in the dark with flashlights for the power to come back on, while our NJ.com editors continued to update the site on battery power. After an hour or so, we were told the power was not going to come back on and we were sent back to our hotels (or homes for a few of us who lived close) to wait for word on when to return.

So, therefore, Tuesday’s paper was never published.

Some people slept in the newsroom that night. Many other newsroom staffers, including me, stayed at the new Courtyard Marriott, next door to the Prudential Center, several blocks from the Star-Ledger building. A small group of us walked to the hotel from the newsroom in the pitch black of night. It was very surreal, walking through downtown Newark with no power. As far as we knew at that moment, power was out in most if not all of Newark.

The hotel’s generators kept the second floor lounge lit up, where staffers assembled for the night to watch reports on TV, make calls to loved ones at home and use the hotel’s wifi to update posts and answer readers’ questions on the storm on NJ.com.

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TUESDAY, OCT. 30

Power remained out in the Newark newsroom. I got a call that morning in my hotel room to meet with director of news production Joe Hannan and managing editor Steve Liebman in a conference room on the second floor in 15 minutes.

At first, the plan was to produce an any-size electronic edition of the newspaper by the early evening. Joe and I discussed with Steve a plan of how we do this. We were hearing we might have to build an electronic edition at our printing plant in Montville, which had power.

Joe and I decided we needed to gather all the high-powered iMacs in the newsroom, many of which had our fonts and the latest versions of Adobe Creative Suite. We would have to build this paper without our JazBox database, which houses our styles, templates and logos, and moves our stories and photos. I knew if I had the fonts, we’d be okay, because I could build the styles from memory, from headlines to label heads, to photo captions and page toppers, I could make it look like a Star-Ledger newspaper.

Production staff, including copy editors and page designers not staying at the hotel, met in a conference room to discuss contingency plans for tomorrow’s edition. We were holding tight. It was time to get ready.

“Design Team 6, assemble!”

“A pic of me taken on Instagram

before leaving for Morristown.”

So around 11 a.m., five of us in our later self-named Design Team 6…

  • Joe Hannan, director of news production
  • Shawn Weston, presentation editor
  • Joe Lee, page designer
  • Neville Harvey, page designer and illustrator
 [who would join the team later]
  • Jim Rife, page designer
  • Mark Voger, page designer and staff writer

…walked from the Marriott to the still-darkened newsroom, flashlights in hand, grabbed some carts and started stacking the most high-powered iMacs, power cords, keyboards, mice and network cables onto them. We then pushed the carts to an emergency stairway, since the elevators were out of service, and carried each one down a flight of stairs to the trunks of three of our hatchbacks and quickly drove back to the Marriott and waited for further instructions on where to go to set up the new makeshift newsroom.

“Well, at least Thor is here. From left, Jim Rife,

Joe Hannan, Joe Lee and Mark Voger.”

Not long after, we were told to go to our NJ.com newsroom bureau in Morristown, about 40-45 minute drive northwest from Newark. The bureau there had power and access to the internet. The sixth member of our design team was preparing to meet us there.

No one in Design Team 6 had been to this bureau. We got the address, collected some food and belongings from our hotel rooms, the three hatchbacks bound for Morristown.

Traffic got snarly once we reached downtown. Three of us were unable to locate the bureau once we reached downtown. Our GPSs and iPhones couldn’t pinpoint the location of the office. But we quickly touched base with the other two in the hatchback over the phone and quickly regained our bearings.

Once we all got there, we carried the iMacs and accessories into a first-floor newsroom illuminated with daylight and bustling with reporters and editors. We immediately started plugging the computers in on some empty desks and connecting them to the Internet.

As the editors were coming up with a plan on which stories to run and how to get photos and stories over to us, a phone call came into the makeshift newsroom. Instead of a multi-page digital product, we were going to produce a 24-page print edition and we needed to have the pages to the plant by 8 p.m.

It was between 3 and 4 p.m.

And because we were going to print this edition, it presented new challenges. We needed to have our barcode on the front page, which we didn’t have on any of the Macs. The barcode issue was an easy one to solve: We’d just find a high-res PDF of a daily Star-Ledger on the Web, grab it and crop out the barcode.

Luckily, we had a nameplate. But the biggest issue was that the templates needed to be sized for the presses. Frantically, I started building our styles (headlines, decks, quotes, bylines, captions, credits, etc.) from memory using our fonts. I grabbed a copy of the Star-Ledger from a nearby coffee table and with a ruler measured the dimensions. If the dimensions were off, it would’ve been a disaster for us at the end of the night, if everyone had built their pages using the wrong dimensions.

I triple-checked the dimensions with Joe Lee and managing editor Steve Liebman, and proceeded to build a new template with the styles I had rebuilt and, to make things faster for our team to build pages quickly, master pages with label heads and folios. This was turned around in about 15 to 20 minutes.

The sixth member of our design team, page designer and illustrator Neville Harvey, came rushing in all the way from the Bronx with his office iMac ready to jump in. We got him hooked up, but had difficulty breaking through the password firewall set up on his machine.

Some of the Macs didn’t have our fonts, either, so on a thumb drive, along with the new template and styles I just built, I also moved the folder of fonts to each of the six computers we had set up, hoping we could get Neville up and running soon. Copy editor Tracy Politowicz ran across the street to buy a bunch of flash drives so that our team could move stories and photos from editors’ laptops to us.

Copy editor Kyle Leach, who lived nearby, said he could run home and grab his iMac if we needed it. Realizing Neville’s computer was going to give us problems, I took him up on it. Without it, we would’ve been in real serious trouble.

Also, two of the iMacs couldn’t use the CS5 templates because older versions of their Creative Suite were incompatible. So new templates were built from scratch using their software.

Then Internet access went down.

Not long after, editor Kevin Whitmer came into the room and told us we needed to move again, across the courtyard to the Hyatt Morristown to a small conference room that had WiFi access. So without hesitation we unplugged our machines, packed up all the cords, keyboards and mice and each of us picked up an iMac and a backpack full of accessories and proceeded to walk — the iMacs getting heavier by the second — across an overcast courtyard, down a long corridor, past a soothing indoor waterfall feature and down a flight of stairs to the conference room. We joked that we might’ve looked like looters to passersby.

Once in the warmth of the conference room, we set up three folding tables and plugged in the iMacs into the outlets and power strips. The room was small, with copy editors lined up along the wall waiting patiently for a story to be ready to be edited.

Shawn sends along a batch of pictures shot by staffer Bob Sciarrino of the mobile newsroom in action.

“In the Hyatt conference room. From left, Joe Lee, Steve

Liebman, me, Chris Collins (in blue hat), Heather Rohan,

reporter Amy Brittain (on phone), Managing Editor Seth

Siditsky (in red), reporter Amy Ellis Nutt (in pink),

designer Jim Rife, designer Mark Voger and managing

editor David Tucker.”

Two tables were set up for editors and reporters to write, edit and move copy to flash drives.

“Outside the conference room: Metro editor Robin Glover,

Carly Rothman, columnist Kathleen O’Brien and reporter

Alexi Friedman.”

“Editors meet outside the conference room: From left,

John Appezzato, assistant managing editor Suzanne

Pavkovic, editor Kevin Whitmer, business editor Rick

Everett, metro editor Robin Glover and managing

editor David Tucker.”

Another table was set up for the photo desk to retrieve and edit the photos.

“From left, photo editor Heather Rohan, page designer

Joe Lee, managing editor Steve Liebman, photo director

Chris Collins and me. In the Hyatt conference room

looking at photos coming in.”

Since one of the iMacs brought in couldn’t be used, copy editor Kyle Leach arrived with his iMac from home.

We weren’t sure if it was us or not, but the temperature in the room was sweltering.

Once up, Design Team 6 started laying out pages around budgeted story lengths. Directors of news production Joe Hannan and Jennifer Potash budgeted the paper with the story slugs and handed out worksheets to everybody on the design team and the photo desk, so we all knew which stories were assigned to which pages and which photos and how many of each needed to carry which pages.

“Design Team 6: From left, Joe Hannan, Neville Harvey,

Joe Lee, Jim Rife, me (hidden) and Mark Voger.”

“Jim Rife designing a page on the Mac.”

Jennifer worked with editors to clean up the stories as they moved from laptops to the proper person on the design team.

“Director of news production Jennifer Potash works

with business editor Rick Everett on a story.”

We each got four pages to build, with Joe Lee designing the page one layout and with me overseeing styles and overall design and sending the PDFs of the finished pages directly to the Montville and Staten Island plants via FTP, which was set up on the fly with our IT department over the phone.

As stories came in, we placed them on flash drives, plugged them into the USB slots, opened them in Word, applied the styles from the new templates and pasted and polished them on the pages. A copy editor was then called over to edit and proofread the story and write headlines and captions, once photos came in through our photo editors from photographers in the field through DropBox. Selected photos were placed on the flash drives as well and moved from machine to machine.

This controlled chaos went on for the rest of the night. The air-conditioning eventually kicked in.

Our copy editors — Patricia Cole, Tracy Politowicz, Joe Green, Stan Goldstein, Garrett Rasko-Martinis, Kyle Leach, Kevin Howell and John Cochran — floated from desktop to desktop reading stories and writing captions and headlines. Jennifer Potash and Steve Liebman also gave each page a final edit before it was PDF’d, put on a flash drive and moved to my machine for output.

I set up an FTP on Cyberduck with the Montville and Staten Island printing plants and sent a test page. Staten Island reported back the page dimensions were a perfect fit. I didn’t hear back from Montville. As pages we’re being built, I started sending PDFs to the plants.

All was going fine. Then, on the final four pages, right at deadline, the FTP with Montville went down. Attempts to reconnect proved futile. We couldn’t wait for the FTP connection to restart to send the rest of what we had, so on Kevin Whitmer’s orders we loaded up two flash drives (an extra just in case) with the PDFs of all the pages. Joe Hannan and Jim Rife volunteered to courier the flash drives out to Montville. Staten Island’s plant ended up getting all the PDFs through their FTP.

Once Jim and Joe reached the Montville plant and the pages plated and on the press, Joe and Jim stayed until the presses were running to make sure papers coming off the line checked out.

“Copy editor Joe Green editing the front page headline.”

Headline, a collaboration between copy editors Joe Green and John Cochran: “HISTORIC DEVASTATION.”

Here is that front page, featuring a photo of the Seaside Heights amusement pier by staffer David Gard.

Here is the entire 24-page section, which printed in black-and-white except for the front and back pages.

Pages two and three:

 

Pages four and five:

 

At this point, the section becomes mostly a photo-driven deal, featuring the stunning aftermath pictures the shooters were bringing back.

Pages six and seven:

 

Pages eight and nine:

 

Pages 10 and 11:

 

Pages 12 and 13:

 

Stories creep back into the paper on pages 14 and 15.

 

Pages 16 and 17.

 

Pages 18 and 19.

 

Pages 20 and 21.

 

Pages 22 and 23.

 

As you can see, page 23 covers the political angle, with photos from Getty Images.

And here’s the back page, 24, featuring two huge aftermath pictures by staffer John Munson.

OK, so back to our story. An edition — a small one, but the Star-Ledger‘s first in two days — has been sent to press. Shawn writes:

Back at the Hyatt, between 10-11 p.m., rumors surfaced that power in the Newark newsroom had returned. On the return trip to the Marriott in Newark, I stopped off at the Newark headquarters and walked the stairs up to the uninhabited newsroom to drop off some equipment.

The rumor was true. Power was back on. Our newsroom was back in business.

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WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31

Reports of the paper reaching people’s doorsteps all over the state in the morning was very encouraging.

The production staff returned to the newsroom to put out one edition, with early deadlines posted for that night and the rest of the week. Joe Lee designed the Page 1 “PURE HELL” cover for Thursday’s paper.

That aerial picture of a washed-out bridge in Mantoloking was by Andrew Mills.

Frank Cecala, with Rosemary Parrillo and Lisa Rose, assembled a detailed full-page color graphic about the destruction to the barrier islands on the inside cover.

Make sure you click on that for a much larger look.

Joe Hannan, Joe Lee, Neville Harvey, Kristen Lord and I designed the remainder of the inside Sandy pages, including a photo double-truck.

Page 26, left, featured another aerial of Mantoloking by Andrew Mills.

 

Page 28 featured the visit by President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie. With the Star-Ledger‘s staff tied up shooting the disaster, the designers chose a picture by Getty.

 

Pages 30 and 31.

 

Page 32 focused on the fatalities.

 

Pages 34 and 35 — the latter of which was Thursday’s utility page.

  

And here’s the doubletruck, featuring a stunning picture of Ortley Beach — again, by Andrew Mills.

Shawn picks up the story again:

We and other designers and copy editors were also working on producing the other sections of the newspaper for the night and advance for Sunday.

After the edition was out, some of us stayed late to finish up work on the Tuesday edition that never printed because of the power outage. It was going to be printed Thursday for insertion in Friday’s edition with an editor’s note.

Page designer Kristen Lord and copy editors Brittney Davies and Megan Carvalho came in the next morning to edit and send the pages to the plant. Joe Lee designed Tuesday’s front page: “PUMMELED.”

Flashback to Monday night: Much discussion about which photo to use for the front page. There were many choices. But, in the end, were pulled in by the torrent of the ocean surge swamping a shore business in the photo on the page. There’s action. There’s impact.

The headline was written by Brittany Davies.

One has to wonder how David Gard got that stunning shot of wave action overlapping the boardwalk without being swept out to sea himself.

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THURSDAY, NOV. 1

I designed the page one cover with Joe Lee for Friday’s paper with Mark Di Ionno‘s front page column with the headline: “We will come back.” We wanted to make a statement with a simple, yet powerful presence above the fold, so I pushed to blow apart the flag and lose any and all our daily furniture on the page.

Some back-and-forth with our editors allowed for some of our trademark cranberry to remain in the repurposed flag without clashing with the photography or distracting the eye from it.

Joe Hannan, Joe Lee, Neville Harvey, Kristen Lord and I designed the remainder of the inside Sandy pages, including a photo double-truck.

This section inside the Friday paper featured a lot more color than the Star-Ledger was able to print earlier. The cover shot, here on page 15, was by Tony Kurdzuk.

Page 16 and 17.

 

Here’s a closer look at that stunning picture atop page 16 by staffer Aristide Economopoulos.

That’s the mayor of Seabright looking at what remains of her town.

Pages 18 and 19:

 

That picture atop 19 — by Tony Kurdzuk — shows a local resident walking through shin-deep water in front of a fire station.

The problem? That fire station is a polling place. You can see why folks were wondering how the hell they were going to vote.

Pages 20 and 21 were a color doubletruck.

The pictures are all stunning, of course. But in particular, I like the picture of the skater boy finding a way to use the debris to his advantage.

That picture is by staffer John O’Boyle.

And here are pages 22 and 23.

 

Also, you’ll remember the tour with Gov. Christie and President Obama and the way Republicans got upset afterwards. Here’s how Drew Sheneman — the Star-Ledger‘s editorial cartoonist — depicted that incident.

Find more of Drew’s work here.

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FRIDAY, NOV. 2

For Saturday’s paper, Shawn tells us:

I designed the Page 1 cover.

It was agreed to early that we would build around the photo of Gov. Christie comforting Lee Tice, a New Jerseyan who had lost Shore homes in the storm. From there, I eventually built the head around Lee Tice’s quote, from a suggestion from copy chief Mark DiMartini, that photographer Tony Kurdzuk got at the scene.

We continued to design the page with a high-impact presence above the fold. Joe Hannan, Neville Harvey, Kristen Lord and myself designed the remainder of the inside Sandy pages.

Pages three and four:

 

Pages five and six:

 

Note the great picture by Jennifer Brown of a man pushing his gas-starved SUV.

Pages seven and eight:

 

The utility page, nine, and page 10.

 

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SATURDAY, NOV. 3

For Sunday’s paper, Shawn tells us:

Neville Harvey designed the Page 1 cover.

The headline on Page 1 was by managing editor David Tucker for the main Sandy story written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Amy Ellis Nutt.

And the awesome cover shot was by Tony Kurdzak.

Celia Webster, Sunday news editor, shepherded the production with Sandy pages designed by Ed Marino and Jennifer Potash.

Pages 14 and 15:

 

That horizontal shot across the top of page 15 shows a lonely cat crossing a deserted street in Seaside Heights.

The picture is by Noah K. Murray.

Pages 16 and 17:

 

Pages 18 and 19, the utility page.

 

And page 20:

In addition, the Sunday perspective section — which was an early run — featured a before-and-after look at the Seaside Heights amusement complex.

Also, across the very top of that page, note a refer to “your guide to election night.” Yes, this was my full-page graphic. On top of everything else the folks in Newark had to cope with, they also took shipment of my graphic on the 31st — not long after power was restored to their newsroom — proofread the thing and requested changes in time for that early run. My graphic appeared inside the Sunday section.

I had mental images of the Star-Ledger‘s copy desk, haggard and unwashed, reading my graphic by candlelight. Shawn assures me that wasn’t the case. Jennifer Potash adds:

Your graphic was pretty clean, we just made some style changes on Wednesday. I did edit a how to survive the storm graphic by lantern light on Monday, as I’d hoped we’d publish, but the power never came back on.

Shawn tells us:

We’re hanging in there. But so many are still without power, including people I work with, and have lost homes or property or can’t return home for months. Really devastating. We’re working on a special section for Sunday highlighting some heroes from the storm.

Weather here over the past two years has been really nutty. Between a historic blizzard in 2010, Irene and the Halloween snowstorm in 2011 and this, it’s frighteningly becoming the new normal.

But, hey, I hear there is a heat wave coming this weekend. Something to look forward to.

Average daily circulation for the Newark Star-Ledger is 278,940.