Journalists across flood-stricken Gloucestershire have been working around the clock to report on this week’s flooding crisis, cancelling holidays, sleeping in cars and delivering papers by boat.
Staff on both of the county’s two daily papers – the Gloucestershire Echo and The Citizen – turned up for work this week despite many of their own homes being flooded.
Echo editor Anita Syvret said the scene was ‘chaos all round”, but that her staff were coping. ‘Nearly all our staff got caught in the floods and ended up not being able to get home, sleeping in car parks in their cars. Some of their living rooms are nearly 1m under water, some of their cellars are in water and others were marooned in villages when they did finally get back,’she said.
‘Most people haven’t had a wash today but we’re fine, we all smell the same. Journalists are always at their best when they are in a crisis. The staff have been incredible.
‘We normally have two [geographical] editions but there is no point in editionising, this is affecting the whole area. We’ve become the number one source of information. If you put the radio on you have to wait for information that is relevant to you. Everyone wants to know where the bowsers [portable water tanks] are. They are all over the county – and we are the place they can go to find out where they are.”
The Echo had to be printed in Bristol on Sunday night because of power cuts, but by Monday night, printing had moved back to the usual Stourton plant. On Tuesday afternoon, copies of the Echo were delivered to Tewkesbury by boat.
Both papers, which are owned by Northcliffe Media Group and based in the same building in Cheltenham, have been using the internet to provide readers with breaking news, with updates provided around every 15 minutes.
Videos and photographs from readers have also been posted on thisisgloucestershire.co.uk, the papers’ joint website. On Monday this week alone, the site received around 470,000 page views and 37,700 unique users.
Citizen editor Ian Mean said there was a lot that his paper could learn from covering the disaster. ‘Last Friday afternoon was almost a day of hell,’he said. ‘People were going out for a journey for only half an hour and ended up sleeping in cars overnight. You could be almost overwhelmed; everything came to a halt.
‘It’s almost like the third world: in Gloucester thousands of people have no water, and it’s going to continue for another week.
‘With the website we’re putting up stuff every five or 10 minutes up to midnight every night, and the hits have been amazing. We have to learn here from local radio. In the past we may have thought ‘what is the point in doing all that stuff?’Local information such as how many bowsers there are, where are they?
‘We don’t pretend to be experts. But what it’s all about is instant news and information. You see a video of a guy being rescued from a river – that’s riveting stuff. We can’t reproduce that in a newspaper. It’s been a wake-up call, but we’re learning.”