Friday, August 15, 2003

State Capital in Darkness; Detroit Free Press Is Clueless

The power outage that affected the Northeastern U.S. and much of Ontario also left Cleveland and Detroit without electricity. The Detroit Free Press

reported that most of the rest of Michigan was blissfully sanguine

There's only one problem: they forgot Lansing, the state capital. Lansing's city-owned utility, the Board of Water and Light, did lose power. The BWL also serves some areas outside the city, including East Lansing. (Michigan State University makes its own power which remained on.)

The outage caught Governor Granholm in the middle of a staff meeting and affected state office buildings. GM had to shut down automotive production. (Lansing hosts major GM factories.) Lansing City Hall was evacuated. The Lansing State Journal had to borrow the news room of the MSU newspaper, the State News, in order to produce a single skinny section of the Friday paper.

In short, the capital was as dark last night as Detroit was.

You can imagine how the Freep made this error: the reporter, Sheryl James, called a PR flack at Consumers Energy, and asked what other parts of the state were affected. (Consumers and DTE are the main electric utilities in Michigan.) Consumers said "actually things are pretty good." James obviously didn't bother to ask anyone in state government -- who certainly would've known the lights were out -- or the Freep's own Lansing bureau.

The New York Times managed to produce a complete, thick Friday edition and get it delivered to the Lansing area. It includes a map showing all major cities with reported outages. Lansing and Kalamazoo are listed, along with Ann Arbor and SE Michigan. Gee, if the Times (whose newsroom ran on generators overnight) can report accurately on Michigan cities, shouldn't the Freep be able to as well?