As Hurricane Harvey bore down on Houston last Friday, Vicki Samuels Levy dashed over to the offices of the Houston Jewish Herald-Voice, took the proofs of this week’s newspaper, and went to her mother’s house.
Then mother and daughter spent all night editing the paper. And the next day, as the waters rose and they were evacuated to a neighbor’s house, they had the proofs in hand, ready for the printer.
“We want to help each other as family members, then we have to stop and do things for the paper,” Vicki, the paper’s CEO, said. “I couldn’t leave to go to my mother’s home before I checked all these pages.”
Her mother, Jeanne Samuels, is also the owner and editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice. Vicki’s husband, Lawrence Levy, runs its circulation, and her son, Michael Duke, is its associate editor and news reporter. Her nephew, Matt Samuels, writes sports and helps with production.
And this week, despite the storm waters deluging the city, the family is determined to keep the paper publishing. Founded in 1908, it has never skipped an issue.
“We’ve been through this before, and we had a contingency plan in place,” Michael said. “We haven’t missed a print issue for 109 years. We’re hoping this isn’t the first time.”
Although the work is mostly computer based, the flooding has made it an arduous task to put the paper together. Vicki and her mother were forced to move into a neighbor’s house when flood waters got too high. More than a dozen other neighbors joined them there. When David discovered a computer glitch, he had to wait three days to get to the office and address it.
Michael abandoned his SUV after driving two strangers to a relative’s house; the vehicle died on the trip home. He and his wife had to wade half a mile through waist-high waters to make it back. And then Michael went right back to work. He has managed to report everything from home, posting a series of articles on the paper’s website that touched on everything from families’ homes being flooded for the third time to a Mormon with an air boat rescuing 100 people in a Jewish neighborhood. By Wednesday morning, the website included more than 20 stories on the storm’s impact.
In the midst of it all, Michael saved his wife’s car from being crushed by a tree, moving it 10 feet just in time.
“The hard part was on Sunday and Monday, when I was on the phone with people I know and love who were climbing onto kitchen counters and going on the roof waiting for rescue boats to come,” he said.
As of Wednesday morning, the family was putting the finishing touches on this week’s issue. The printer said it hopes to be back up and running on Thursday evening, and the newspaper was awaiting word from the service that labels and mails the copies on Friday mornings. The Jewish Herald-Voice will offer a free e-edition.
Michael Duke has spent the week worrying about his family. But now that everyone is safe, he said, at least they can worry about the paper together.
JTA Wire Service