Update from the Wall Street Journal white-powder scare: The evacuation has been so mishandled that employees were reduced to reading Gawker — or picking up the phone and reporting the story themselves.
In classic News Corp fashion, after the initial email went out at 11:45 saying that a suspicious package had been received, they proceeded to evacuate 9 and 11 — the op-ed and executive floors — while making NO announcement of any kind to the rank-and-file reporters and editors on 10. Need them to get the paper out, after all. Word started to circulate, but a fair number of people learned that the floors directly above and below them had been evacuated only by reading gawker or nytimes.com. Finally another e-mail went out more than an hour later with the news that 9 and 11 had been evacuated, but instructing others to STAND BY FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS FROM THEIR MANAGERS REGARDING WORK. At that point, the 10th floor employees just started leaving — they've now all headed home, still with no instructions or information whatsoever from management.
Another employee tells us that they were hustled from the 10th floor, which wasn't being evacuated, to the 9th floor, which had been cleared, for a meeting to discuss evacuation plans.
Here's the email employees got more than an hour after the first one:
From: Hoffman, Howard
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:53 PM
To: Hoffman, Howard
Subject: WFC 9th and 11th floors evacuating - stand by for more instructions
Authorities are investigating suspicious packages delivered to our World Financial Center offices. As a precaution, the 9th and 11th floors have been evacuated while police and other safety personnel assess any potential hazard. Elevators are closed on those floors, requiring transit by emergency stairs.
All employees in World Financial Center should follow the instructions of emergency personnel while standing by for further instructions from their managers regarding work.
We will advise you as soon as possible of any updated information or instructions.
Here's whats's now known: An assistant to editor Robert Thomson opened one of the 13 or more envelopes that have led to evacuations at the paper's lower-Manhattan headquarters. The envelopes all bore a Tennessee postmark — and echoed a series of post-9/11 mail scares where envelopes, some containing actual anthrax spores and some containing harmless powder showed up in mailrooms from the Capitol to the Florida offices of the National Enquirer.
For those who are worried: Paul Gigot of the WSJ editorial page is safe, according to a colleague trapped on the 10th floor who took the initiative to call a colleague stuck in the lobbby. Gigot and others were waiting outside the turnstiles as security goons refuse to let him return to his desk. How will they meet the paper's pushed-back 3 p.m. deadline? A tipster tells us the WSJ has rented space in a nearby hotel for employees to finish work:
Only unessential employees on the 9th and 11th floors were told to leave, or those who were set up to work at home. We're now working on the 10th and 12th floors (the ones that weren't evacuated). Some people are working from home. Deadlines have been moved back to 3 p.m. for filing copy.
Subject: Evacuated staff can wait at Marriott for further instructions
Employees already evacuated from the 9th and 11th floors of WFC who are NOT needed to publish the Journal, MarketWatch, Barron's, Newswires or for other critical functions can go home for the remainder of the day.
Staff required for news products or for other critical functions should await further instructions. Space has been secured for you at the Marriott World Financial Center immediately across West Street while wait. Go to the Financial Ballroom on the second floor where seats are available and coffee and sandwiches will be served.
We will advise you as soon as possible with new information and next steps.