For journalist Hiroyuki Takeuchi, it was an easy decision. He never thought it would bring international attention to his newspaper, Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, the only daily in the small Japanese coastal town.
"As journalists, our job is to write about what we witness," the newspaper's chief reporter said. "So long as we have a pen and paper, we have to get the news out."
Problem is, that's all Takeuchi had. When the largest earthquake in Japan's history struck Ishinomaki March 11, it knocked out power to Hibi Shimbun's operations. Devastating tsunami waves subsequently crashed ashore nearly an hour later, washing out local streets and cutting off access to major roads Takeuchi and his colleagues used to get to their stories.
The office was spared major damage but the water seeped into the printer. With no power, no printer or laptop, Takeuchi went back to the basics. He wrote articles on a large sheet of paper, with a black felt-tip pen, for six days.
The decision to continue reporting despite all odds has garnered worldwide attention. Since the Washington Post first published a story about Takeuchi's efforts March 21, Hibi Shimbun has gotten calls from reporters in the United States, China and as far away as Hungary.
The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has obtained seven of the paper's original handwritten copies. The newspaper published by six reporters now sits alongside world-renowned Pulitzer Prize winning papers housed in the museum.
"I haven't even processed what this all means," Takeuchi said, admitting that he'd never heard of the Newseum until recently. "We are all just shocked."
The handwritten paper almost didn't get out. In the hours after the disasters last month, Takeuchi could only account for three of his six staff reporters. One was washed away with his car, as he was driving back from an assignment. Takeuchi didn't hear from another for nearly a week. One of Takeuchi's youngest reporters walked through water, chest deep, to gather information about the tragedy.
In the aftermath, Takeuchi remembered a story that had been passed down from former colleagues. During World War II, Hibi Shimbun was forced to halt distribution because the Japanese government only allowed for one newspaper per prefecture, or jurisdiction. The paper's reporters still continued to write at home, secretly distributing articles to anybody who would read them. Takeuchi said the story inspired him to continue reporting during his city's worst natural disaster.
"In our 99-year history, we've had some really rough times," Takeuchi said. "But our readers have helped us through all those years. We felt a responsibility to be there for them, in this city's toughest hours."
Veteran reporter Michiko Hirai was tasked with coordinating crew assignments. With no access to a car, she walked through flooded streets to get to city hall and gather any information she could.
"We were just determined to get the news out to our readers," she said.