An answer to Dennis Ryerson

Dateline: Tue 25 Jul 2006

Check it out, indeed. That's what I have been doing the past three weeks, since Mpozi died.

Dennis Ryerson's comments don't deal with the central issue, as identified by those of us who won't let this go -- that the newsroom did not have a protocol in place to deal with an emergency. That what went down that night included a lot of wasted time and confusion, as a result of no emergency preparedness.

My account is based on the observations and frustrations of people who were there when Mpozi started to lose it. The Guild continues to push for improvements, knowing that Mpozi's death is more than tragic.

Reporters and editors were frantically trying to dial 911, but they didn't know they had to get an outside line first. That's why some had to resort to cell phones. Can you imagine trying to call 911 and getting stalled? Or calling security and getting confused questions rather than a response?

No wonder people thought they couldn't call 911- they couldn't. They didn't know the procedure. Whose responsibility is that?

Also, some people were told, that night, that all 911 stuff had to be routed thru security. Security was called, but that was another set of problems (lack of English skills on behalf of the person working).

And then of course there is the matter of the first floor freight elevator being blocked as they brought Mpozi down.

As one friend noted, Mpozi would have had a better chance had he collapsed at a Starbuck's or any public place. Even the street.

Back in the day when the Pulliams owned the joint, an emergency protocol was taped or pasted to every secretary's desk -- that was when each department had one secretary and the newsroom several. The drill was first call 911, then call security.

The week following Mpozi's July 3 death, I emailed both Dennis and publisher Barbara Henry about my concerns. I told Barbara I believed that the newsroom would be greatly helped in dealing with this trauma if, in the aftermath, there was CPR training, defibs, and a first responder. etc. I said I thought it would help the newsroom deal with sorrow, anguish and guilt. Her answer was compelling. She said there was "sorrow, yes, but no guilt."

That's where I strongly disagree.

Mpozi, and the thousands of Gannett employees, deserve better.

Long live the Internet.

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