Gannett provides vital information to Texas communities impacted by storm

Gannett names Spencer Mandell executive creative director

When the unprecedented winter storm devastated Texas, journalists at the Austin American-Statesman provided critical information to their local communities, despite also personally enduring effects from the inclement freezing weather. As Texas continues to deal with aftermath of the storm, Gannett is mobilizing to offer support and aid to Texas employees.

Statesman journalists – many who faced electrical outages, lack of water and broken pipes at home – worked to keep residents notified about power updatesboil water orders and where to find free food, gas and shelter. The newsroom used text messaging – in English and Spanish – to reach more than a thousand people without power or reliable access to internet or cellphone service. Staff also managed to capture the enormity of the storm’s impact by flying drones and walking the streets to take photographs. In addition, journalists produced editorials and enterprise, such as pieces that exposed failures in the electrical grid and examined how some fire hydrants across Austin may not work. Their “how to help” piece earned retweets from former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden.

“When the weather was at its worst, our journalists were at their best. Journalists without power at home attended zoom meetings and edited stories while charging their phones from their cars, and some had pipes bursting at their homes. They continued to provide life-saving information. Every story mattered,” said editor of the Austin American-Statesman Manny García, who used his own four-wheel drive car to transport staffers during the icy weather, including State Desk Political Reporter Nicole Cobler — who had just spent more than 24 hours in an apartment where temperatures dipped to 36 degrees.

“I scrambled to pack up my cat and belongings and alerted several journalists who lived near me. We hiked up a hill in freezing temperatures to get to Manny, who drove us to safety and warmth at the Statesman,” Cobler said. “I’m so grateful for my colleagues who kept each other safe, warm and well fed as they provided life-saving information for our community.”

Journalists across the USA TODAY NEWORK have also been working together to support this coverage. Design Center and Digital Optimization Team teams stepped in on their off days to package indispensable information for Gannett newspapers. More than a dozen journalists from Gannett media outlets traveled to Austin, where they continue to work alongside Statesman journalists, who are trying to cope with the ongoing effects of the storm.

Beyond the newsroom, Gannett is working to provide aid and relief to Texas employees as well. GPS teams loaded up and delivered semi-trucks with food, water, diapers and paper products to drop-off locations in Texas. Employees also made home drop-offs to those unable to travel. The Austin American-Statesman office became a refuge (following COVID safety protocols) for employees seeking power, water, heat and supplies.

Gabby Munoz, a news manager for the American-Statesman, lost both power and water for days.

“I spent four nights in the Statesman newsroom, sleeping in the editor’s office, after my home lost power and then water during Austin’s winter storm,” Munoz said. “I’m deeply grateful to have had a safe, familiar place to stay alongside a handful of colleagues, where we were able to cook, take showers and continue the important work of informing Central Texas during a crisis. I am also so appreciative of Gannett’s shipments of food, water and other supplies for Austin employees to help ease the burden as everyone worked hard to cover a breaking news event while living through it ourselves.”

Gannett’s HR team is working to set up direct emergency financial assistance and other resources for those in need of short-term financial help, and Marketing Solutions teams are reaching out to local businesses to find out how to best help them.

“Further strengthening communities, our outstanding round-the-clock coverage continues to provide crucial news and information to our readers. All of this only underscores how we aid communities in navigating disasters such as this and how important we are in helping people restore their lives in the immediate aftermath and beyond,” said Gannett CEO Mike Reed.

Scroll to Top