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Column: Readers collaborate on flooding coverage

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When I look out into our newsroom, the glass windows that separate my office from the newsroom as a whole give me a wide look at the number of available Republic news, features or sports reporters that could be immediately assigned to chase down a developing story.

Or does it?

If you also consider the community reporters that send in news items and photos throughout the day, my small army of news gatherers quickly mushrooms into a brigade of reporters.

There are differences, of course. The Republic reporters are trained and part of a professional staff. But the amateurs who send us news tips and snap photos with their smartphones also make huge contributions, especially with breaking news.

That was surely the case Monday as floodwaters across Bartholomew County were rising. Commuters who found themselves stalled in traffic took photos of high water and emailed them to us with descriptions — including places and times — of where the photos were taken.

For example, several photos submitted by C.J. Chandler showed conditions that morning commuters were facing as they attempted to navigate Jonathan Moore Pike. That was as the East Fork White River was rising, just before lane restrictions were announced.

We posted those photos for online readers to view as the high-water story was developing through the day.

Another photo contributor, Amie Law Shoemaker, sent us several strong photos of Noblitt Park behind Lawton Avenue, also posted to our online report that day — giving readers more opportunity to learn what was going on around them in real time.

We also had text messages throughout the day Monday tipping us off to new trouble spots as water began to cover travel lanes, and eventually closed Jonathan Moore Pike around dinnertime Monday. Our professional reporting staff followed up on those tips, with several of them resulting in breaking news updates.

Our early-week online and print reports of the flooding were stronger as a result of readers deciding to contribute news tips and photos, complementing what Republic staffers were also busily doing.

Keep ’em coming.

Other reader feedback

Besides helping us out a lot, readers are also known to keep us on our toes at times.

One Onion submission published Dec. 20 criticized “the newspaper for not publishing junior high and grade school basketball scores.”

We have broad shoulders and allow such remarks to be published when we’re the target of the criticism. However, we should not have published this particular Onion.

That’s because we do publish junior high and grade school scores in the sports section every Sunday — as long as coaches or other media liaisons send them to us. This sports news appears on the Sunday Sports Scrapbook page.

Last Sunday’s edition included recaps of the:

Jennings County eighth-grade girls basketball win against Northside.

Jennings seventh-grade boys basketball loss to Northside.

Central Middle School eighth-grade loss to Madison.

Northside wrestling results.

Columbus East junior varsity wrestling results.

And lots more.

We’re always glad to hear from our customers, no matter what happens to be on their mind each day. Thanks for reading The Republic.

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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