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Destroyed offices and flooded presses don’t silence Grand Forks paper

April 22, 1997

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) _ The Red River’s devastating flood and a destructive weekend fire can’t silence the Grand Forks Herald.

``Come Hell And High Water″ read the banner headline on Monday’s special edition of the newspaper, put together in a makeshift newsroom and run off on borrowed presses more than 300 miles away.

``There is a frantic atmosphere. We have a lot of people doing things they’ve never done before,″ said Jim Durkin, the newspaper’s managing editor whose titled was changed recently to newsroom maestro. ``We have circulation people trying to put together stories. We have reporters scattered all over and no way to keep in touch with them.″

A photograph on Monday’s front page showed the burned-out shell of the Security Building, one of several destroyed in a weekend fire that burned in the midst of flooding that confounded firefighters.

A smaller picture showed a pair of street signs _ ``S 3rd St″ and ``Minnesota Ave″ _ barely visible above the water.

The weekend fire gutted the Herald’s newsroom, and the flood put its presses under water.

The flames also destroyed the newspaper’s archives of clippings and photos that recorded much of the river town’s history.

``It makes me feel like I want to cry,″ said Jenelle Stadstad, manager of the newspaper’s library. ``I feel helpless.″

``I can’t even imagine all of the files we lost,″ she said. ``Our microfilm went back to 1879, our first paper. It’s just unbelievable.″

Durkin said the staff hasn’t been able to check on their own homes.

``In a way it’s a blessing that we’re able to do this work, because you can’t stop and think about what happened for more than 15 seconds at a time,″ said Durkin. ``Once we stop and think about it, it’s going to hit like a ton of bricks.″

After the city’s downtown was flooded, staff members set up shop Saturday at the nearby University of North Dakota. But they had to move again when the campus, too, was evacuated because of the worsening flood.

Their next stop was a temporary newsroom set up at a school in Manvel, about 10 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

The printing was done at a sister newspaper, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota’s capital city. Copies were distributed free at emergency shelters and other locations in North Dakota and western Minnesota.

Monday’s special flood edition was the second. The banner headline on Sunday’s 50,000 copies read: ``A City Scarred.″

Both the St. Paul and Grand Forks newspapers are owned by Knight-Ridder Inc. of Miami. The company is drawing on experience from 1992, when The Miami Herald kept publishing in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.

``At a time like this, people are going to be starved for news,″ said Arden Dickey, circulation director for Knight-Ridder’s newspaper division.

Dickey went to St. Paul to help plan the arrangement, which will continue until the Grand Forks paper can return to regular operations. The Herald normally has a circulation of about 38,000.

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