Journalists at the Pilot were finalizing coverage Saturday night of a drag show targeted by protesters, when they spotted social media chatter about a power outage. John Nagy, the editor of the 102-year-old Moore County, N.C., newspaper, asked a reporter to make some calls. He thought maybe a car accident had temporarily taken out a transformer.
Then the newsroom went dark.
The editorial staff of about a dozen people leaped into action. Reporters soon confirmed that authorities believed the power at some 45,000 southeastern North Carolina addresses had been knocked out intentionally. Nagy drove to a substation that authorities say was attacked by gunfire and snapped a photograph of a toppled gate that would be republished by news outlets across the country.
They did it all without power. Reporters worked on their cellphones, filing stories from the darkened newsroom or from the local police station, one of the only places with electricity. With service spotty, they fought through dropped phone calls and mobile hot spots that sometimes functioned and sometimes didn’t.