Sneakernet journalism: A mysterious and bizarre internal systems glitch yesterday caused the projo.com staff to be unable to see our homepage or reach our blog server. They could not access the 7 to 7 News Blog from the newsroom, couldn't even see the blog on the Web, and couldn't see if its headlines had updated on the homepage even if they had been able to publish.
I work a bit later shift, and was still home at 11 a.m. when the call came asking what I could see. I could see everything, and had just updated this blog. The headline wasn't updating on the projo homepage, though. The timestamp of the new post published as text, no headline, no link.
I volunteered to stay home and take emails from reporters and editors. I would publish The Providence Journal's breaking news on the Web by myself all day from our home den, barefoot. I would email headlines, permalinks and timestamps back to the newsroom to be manually posted on the homepage. No one inside the Journal could see any of it.
I was too busy to take a live screenshot, but I found a tiny one at Alexa of an earlier day showing how this 7 to 7 News blog leads the homepage on weekdays.
Emails and comments from readers also came to me, as the author of every post. A reader whispered that one item had transferred a superior court judge to the federal bench. In the mailstorm, I'd whizzed past that error. This anonymous citizen wanted the news to be accurate, and was watching my back. (As journalist-blogger Dan Gillmor says, "My readers know more than I do.")
At dusk, the news editor asked me to write a couple of weekend preview posts, on Brown University's Parents Weekend and an advance on tonight's WaterFire. Since it's the last "fire sculpture" of the season, you may find it news to use. Here's the crosspost...
Season's last WaterFire tonight
People line South Water Street in Providence during an earlier WaterFire.
Here's how Lifebeat Weekend put it yesterday:
The final WaterFire of this season takes place Saturday, with the full lighting of the bonfires on the river beginning at sunset, which is at 5:56 p.m., creeping before 6 p.m. this time, marking the earlier nightfalls of fall and winter.
WaterFire is urban conceptual art, braziers fed wood by people in boats at night on three rivers. It's the brainchild of Providence artist Barnaby Evans, each "fire sculpture," as Evans calls it, sponsored by a different local group or business. They have been a regular part of Providence's mild Saturday nights since 1997. (Sometimes on a Friday, or midweek too.)
WaterFire is outdoors, and it is free.
If you've never seen it, head downtown to catch the "classic" version -- recorded music (usually classical in some culture) and fires on the river; walk over bridges, around the rivers, see street art, shadows, flickering lights, reflections, relax.
Nobody knows what it is, but it works.