Pulling back the curtain: A behind-the-scenes look at our reporting on this week’s school closure

In this article, My Buckhannon owner and publisher Brian Bergstrom gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how we covered a recent breaking news story, from the initial tip to the final published story more than eight hours later.

As I do every morning, I sat down Sunday with a big cup of tea and opened the DHHR COVID-19 dashboard promptly at 10 a.m.

Good news – no new Upshur County cases. I whipped up a quick story, published it and messaged a group of friends.

“Nice, quiet update for once,” I wrote.

The first sign that something was amiss hit our inbox minutes later. News tip — outbreak at the school transportation department. Multiple positives, large potential exposure.

The information seemed credible, so I flagged it for follow-up.

By noon, it was clear a serious situation was developing that could impact the reopening of schools. Many people had reached out to us, largely collaborating key details – multiple confirmed positive results in the transportation department, with several additional exposures that would likely result in a significant portion of the staff going into quarantine.

I discussed the situation with our editor, Katie Kuba, who then contacted the school system for comment and drove to snap a photo of the emergency testing outside Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. Meanwhile I began to sketch out a story.

By 3:30 p.m., five hours after receiving the initial tip, we had spoken to school officials on the record and confirmed that at least two bus drivers had tested positive for COVID-19 and many others would likely have to quarantine. The school system was still assessing the extent of the potential exposure to determine how the route schedule would be affected, a process that would take a few more hours.

We went to work on a story and soon had a draft ready for publication. At this point, no other media had published any information on the outbreak.

The plan was still to reopen schools, and our story said as much. However, I had doubts. The information we had received from various sources indicated more than two dozen drivers might have been exposed.

At approximately 4 p.m., Katie and I discussed the issue by phone and decided to delay publishing our story for two hours to give the school system more time to evaluate the situation. While publishing sooner would ensure we beat other media to the story, we believed there was a significant chance school would ultimately be canceled and decided a short delay would be appropriate given that uncertainty.

However, shortly before 5 p.m., the school system published their own press release, acknowledging the issue but reiterating that schools would be open Monday. At this point, it no longer made sense to continue holding our initial story, so we published it as well.

After receiving several questions from parents, we again reached out to the school system. They were still working on the bus schedule and would update us when that process was completed.

Two hours later, at just after 7 p.m., the school system released a second statement, this time reversing course and canceling schools for the upcoming week due to a lack of drivers. We quickly updated our story and pushed notifications to social media to give parents and the community as much advance notice as possible.

So much for a quiet day.

My Buckhannon is a tiny little business, but we’re 100% locally owned and really care about our community. That means bringing you timely, accurate and responsible reporting, seven days a week. Hopefully, this article provides some insight into the process we go through behind the scenes to ensure we are publishing complete and reliable information that you can depend on.

And we depend on you. We read every comment, every message, every email, every tip, every criticism. Please, keep them coming.

As always, thank you for reading.

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