Sunday, July 19, 2009

StarText, 1986, Continued ...

When last we left off, StarText was entering 1986 as the first local service of its kind to make a profit. Which was enough of a big deal that publisher Phil Meek lifted his "no press release" rule and issued a press release.

In the January issue of StarText INK, the indefatigable subscriber columnist Ed Jackson told everyone "What StarText is All About" in a missive labled "Views of an Oldtimer," a tag Ed I'm sure was very proud to sport.

Ed wrote, "For the last three years I have felt like I was riding the tail of a comet. Through the give and take electronic communications, StarText has consistently listened, and responded to one and all ... ever probing the needs and wants of its subscribers."

He cited one milestone that had a very personal significance:

"November 2, 1984 -- First marriage between StarText subscribers Ed Jackson and Patricia Chadwell."

"Maybe StarText didn't give the bride away, but it found her for me!"

Editor Christine Russell advised on the latest keywords and features, including new columns devoted to the newest computer from Commodore, the Amiga, authored by Larry Groebe and Betty Clark.

While growing the level of interactivity beteween subscribers via electronic mail, columns, forums and other features had become an important channel for growing our numbers, updating the news was still our bread and butter. We now had four editors assigned to keep the news fresh for our customers, and while we weren't 24/7, we had the news desk manned most hours weekdays and a good portion of the weekends.

Our news team was put to the test Jan. 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff.

The accident happened just before noon, many hours before the next edition of the Star-Telegram would hit the streets. Under Christine's direction, our news editors went into high gear, updating the story countless times over the next 24 hours and the days beyond.

As an online editor, your biggest concern is hoping the host computers can handle the load and don't decide to pick that moment to hiccup. While we were still on the old Tandy system, there were several occasions where we were sitting on a big breaking story and had to twiddle our thumbs waiting for some technical glitch to get fixed.

But on this occasion they were up to the task. Our 2,000-plus subscribers were every bit as informed about the tragedy as the large TV audiences.

I was as proud of our team as I had ever been. They performed like veterans.