Thursday, 4 May 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Craziness rules the day here. We’ve got a major media “hook” coming for our top-priority issue. We’re scrambling to get information out to reporters and editorial writers. It’s a high-stress time anyway, made worse by rampant, multiple, infuriating technological snafus — and by having to squeeze in time to write the Grist diary every morning. What was I thinking when I agreed to write this @#%&* diary??? Grrrr …

Yesterday, our email crashed just after I finished writing the day’s diary, but before I could file it. It took about an hour to file it from another computer, but not before I had to exterminate a virus in my floppy drive, find disks that the floppy drive would deign to read (they weren’t full but the drive thought they were), and get the file to another computer that had a working email connection.

Is trouble brewing for the Tongass?

Photo: Alaska Rainforest Campaign.

After the diary work, I switched over to work on our media mailing. The Forest Service will soon release its version of President Clinton’s national forest protection policy for roadless areas. It is likely to be a watered-down version that leaves out Alaska’s Tongass National Forest — our baby! We’ve been calling and faxing and mailing to give media folks the heads-up on what’s coming.

Doing the mailing required us to look up addresses on our media database, which is housed on our website, which we couldn’t access because of the aforementioned technological glitches. We tried looking up the addresses on our CD copy of the Bacon’s media guide. However, Bacon’s is the antithesis of user-friendly software. It’s about as intuitive as Mandarin Chinese. Neither I nor my new media person, Ron Olsen, could figure it out. Our resident expert on Bacon’s was out of the office for another two days. We finally borrowed a hard copy from another group, which required a quick bike ride across town by Katja Dillmann, our conservation assistant.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hand-addressing envelopes to a hodge-podge list of media contacts. Some are from our lists, some from other friendly media types, some from Bacon’s. This is not the way things are supposed to work. We’re supposed to have a state-of-the-art media database available from our website, which enables us to instantly fax our info directly to each media name on the list, but our tech consultants have been bogged down on the project for weeks. Grrrr …

We finally finished at 7 p.m. Wednesday and dashed off to the post office.

This morning, it’s time to for me to send follow-up faxes to all the reporters I called yesterday. I want to copy the info onto letterhead before faxing, but our copier (a lame prehistoric model) is producing washed out copies, so I have to run around the corner to the Sierra Club office to use their machine.

When I come back, our fax machine is flatlining — it’s totally unresponsive to any command (even though it’s plugged in and lit up), staring back at me like a zombie. Several minutes of tinkering and it stirs to life — and sends one fax before fritzing again with a different ailment. Ned Ludd was right! Down with technology!! If I had a sledgehammer, some office equipment here would be in real trouble.

If I weren’t diary writing right now, I’d be on a conference call to strategize how the enviro community will respond when the Forest Service releases it’s version of the president’s forest protection policy. I have to skip it, but I’m due to hop in a cab as soon as I’m done here and catch a meeting of enviro group media folks who are working up the message for the Forest Service announcement. Just my luck, I’ll get stuck in traffic and be horribly late.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is less insane …