Lew Serviss, assistant news editor for The New York Times Print News Hub, offers a detailed look for Times Insider at how he and his colleagues, heading into this past weekend, planned for the possible death of Muhammad Ali and then monitored the internet for the latest developments. Evidently, there are a few movie buffs in the mix.
At the end of a Friday planning meeting called by Print News Hub director Denise Fuhs with night sports editor Carl Nelson, deputy sports editor Jay Schreiber, weekend sports editor Tom Coffey and sports copy desk head Pete Blair, Coffey – in his best Lloyd Bridges Airplane! imitation – jokingly stated, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking!”
And here’s how Serviss frames the moment he realized the momentous triggering event the group had planned for might be coming to pass:
At 12:20 a.m., I refreshed the trending hashtag I had been monitoring on Twitter: #MuhammadAli. My eyes immediately fell on a post in the middle of the screen, by a Times political reporter, Yamiche Alcindor: ‘Wow. NBC News is reporting #MuhammadAli has died.’ I felt like the Roy Scheider character in Jaws, watching a shark attack swimmers as a camera on a dolly pushed toward him, Hitchcock-style.
I told [night News Hub chief] Mr. [Steve] Kenny, whose eyes widened as he reached for the phone to call Mr. Nelson in Sports. “NBC reporting he’s dead,” I texted to Mr.[Michael] Connors, [managing director for production at The Times printing plant in College Point, Queens]. “Hang on.” In minutes, [national correspondent] Mr. [John] Eligon had confirmed with the family spokesman that Ali had died, and we were off to the races. Justin Porter on the digital desk sent out a news alert at 12:44. The digital news team, led by Mr. Kenny and Dave Renard, a news editor, quickly published to the web a banquet of news: the obituary, the two columns, a 20-minute video, a slide show, a timeline and a compilation of Ali quotations.
The Print Hub gang was able to get a full slate of articles about Ali into just one national print edition, Los Angeles, finalizing those efforts by 1:51 a.m. The front page of the second New York edition was also able to showcase the Ali news, thanks in part to the fact that the Saturday edition has a larger press run than any edition except Sunday.
Previously on FishbowlNY:
From Rome to Vegas and Beyond, a Sportswriter Remembers Muhammad Ali
A Miami Beach Portrait of Muhammad Ali
Photo of separate, successive Saturday New York editions via: Twitter