A Tribute to the Morning Report and Thanks to Editor Bill Halainen
Tomorrow will mark the end of an era, as the first day in nearly three decades that the NPS Morning Report will not be published. Always reliable, the report will be remembered as one of the longest running and successful communications platforms in NPS history. Since 1986, it has featured over 20,000 NPS incidents, along with thousands of other stories profiling the incredible work of NPS employees and partners around the country.
Like everything, our systems and processes are only as good as the people managing them. In the case of the report, one person deserves the credit for its sustained success: Bill Halainen. Bill developed a vision for the report in the mid-1980s, while working in WASO, and executed it in remarkable fashion over the next 30 years. Not only did he serve as the primary editor between 1986 and 2015, for the majority of that time span, he was the only editor. Only in recent years, was a backup editor available to Bill. We all owe Bill an enormous debt of gratitude for the thousands of hours he spent editing this report. He never missed a beat, even on his vacations and weekends, for nearly 30 years.
Bill started his career as a seasonal interpretive ranger in 1974 at Little Big Horn Battlefield NM. He then worked seasonally as an interpreter ranger at Mesa Verde NP (1975-1977), moved to Colonial NHP as a permanent in protection (1977-1980), then to Minute Man NHP as a protection ranger (1980-1985).
He moved to WASO in 1985 as the NPS uniform program manager, and began editing the report in 1986. After nearly 10 years in WASO, he became a management assistant to the superintendent at Delaware Water Gap NRA, where he continued editing the report as a collateral duty until he retired in 2007. Luckily for the NPS, after his "official" retirement, he continued editing the report as an NPS contractor, working for WASO communications for the past 8 years.
Bill's great work and contributions have been recognized by many over the years. He is the recipient of countless awards including: Distinguished Service Award given by the Association of National Park Rangers; three Director's Performance Awards for development of service wide reporting systems and helping develop the service's first website in 1995; the Outstanding Service Award from the International Ranger Federation for his role in writing and publishing The Thin Green Line; the Department of the Interior's Unsung Hero Award, given for his sustained efforts in service communications in 1999; the Meritorious Service Award given in 2006 for his wide ranging career achievements; the President's Award from the Association of National Park Rangers in 2009; and most recently, the George B. Hartzog Award given by the Coalition of NPS Retirees in 2015.
For those of you that know Bill, you know his skill and dedication are unparalleled. Despite moving through various positions in the NPS, he took a personal ownership of the report out of pure and selfless dedication to the NPS mission, and its employees. Throughout his career, Bill has been known for being selfless, humble, high performing, highly reliable, dedicated to the mission, and committed to excellence. His efforts had very real, and positive impacts on tens of thousands of readers over the years. While the report may be gone for now, the impacts of Bill's contributions will always be remembered and greatly appreciated.
from the last edition of the NPS Morning Report on August 31, 2015
A co-worker of Bill Halainen once wrote that when his daughters asked him, "What does Mr. Halainen do?," he thought about it for only a second before responding, "Mr. Halainen is the unofficial voice of the National Park Service. Not everyone in the Service knows him, but everyone in the Service knows of him." Bill began his career with the NPS as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument in 1974. He followed this with seasons at Mesa Verde National Park from 1975 to 1977 before being hired permanently as a law enforcement ranger at Colonial National Historical Park (NHP) in 1977. In 1980 he transferred to Minute Man NHP. Five years later he took the position as the NPS Uniform Program Manager at NPS headquarters in Washington, D.C. A year later, in 1986, Bill began to edit the NPS Morning Report. As one person wrote, "before the Morning Report we hardly knew ourselves." Through his vision and hard work Halainen built the report into the veritable "voice" of the NPS. His efforts helped link agency members together and fostered a sense of community and teamwork. For nearly thirty years he edited the report, never missing a beat, even on weekends and vacations, at the same time working his regular, demanding job, making it "the longest running and successful communications platforms in NPS history." For most of his time with the report, he had no backup. Bill was the only editor, editing and publishing approximately 6,900 editions.
Bill's dedication to the NPS is legendary. He served as a board member of the Association of National Park Rangers, helped establish the International Ranger Federation, edited Ranger magazine, and in 2002 became editor of "Inside NPS," a job he did in addition to his work on the Morning Report.
After ten years in various positions with Ranger activities in Washington, Bill transferred to Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area as a management assistant, where he worked until his retirement in 2007. But his association with the Morning Report and Inside NPS did not end with his retirement. He continued to edit both publications as a contractor until 2015.
During his distinguished career, Bill received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award given by the Association of National Park Rangers; three Director's Performance Awards for development of service wide reporting systems and helping develop the service's first website in 1995; the Outstanding Service Award from the International Ranger Federation for his role in writing and publishing The Thin Green Line; the Department of the Interior's Unsung Hero Award; the Meritorious Service Award given in 2006 for his wide ranging career achievements; the President's Award from the Association of National Park Rangers in 2009; and in 2015 the George B. Hartzog Award given by the Coalition of NPS Retirees (now The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks). Midwest Regional Director Cameron Sholly would observe, "Throughout his career, Bill has been known for being selfless, humble, high performing, highly reliable, dedicated to the mission, and committed to excellence." That selfless dedication and hard work touched thousands of lives and made the NPS a better agency. His career in the NPS is a reminder that one person can make a difference.
Courtesy The Coalition To Protect America's National Parks
Bill's retirement, however, was short-lived. In 2017 he began producing The Coalition Weekly Report a weekly edition of the Morning Report for members of The Coalition To Protect America's National Parks. His last issue appeared on April 14, 2021, culminating 38 years of helping to educate the public about news and events happening throughout the National Park System. In his final "issue", Bill wrote:
Provisions/Limitations of these Online Editions
Below are a reproduction of NPS Morning Reports with alterations. To be compliant with a previous Department of the Interior Solicitor's ruling, we have altered the original reports to remove the names of the individuals involved in incidents (except for the ranger(s) or park personnel associated with that incident). We were unable to re-create some Morning Reports (archived records were lost), including some which we only had access to the Blackberry/Summary Editions.
We could not locate the editions from 1986-1988, so we are substituting the Field Incident Reports (which were originally used by Bill Halainen to help create each day's Incidents section of the Morning Report). Field Incident Reports submitted to Ranger Activities in the Washington D.C. Area Support Office (WASO) were handled individually; each would be printed out in hard copy, then hand delivered to offices in WASO and the Department of Interior that had an interest in hearing about incidents. The Morning Report, which in those early years focused mostly on operational matters, was accordingly expanded to include all these incident reports and, starting in 1989, the Morning Report served as the only source for reading about incidents.
As a result, there are indeed gaps in the archive (this online collection probably constitutes approximately 80-90% of all reports produced). Additionally, there are alterations in the original formatting (due to file conversions from editions produced using several old, non-existent word-processing programs), as well as possible spelling errors (introduced during the scanning of some paper editions while converting them to digital). Consequently, these should NOT be viewed as originals but merely approximations of NPS Morning Reports. In addition, it should be noted that any links contained within these old reports most likely are no longer are valid.
In addition, below are a complete archive of the Coalition Reports (courtesy The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks). Unlike the NPS Morning Reports, these PDF files are as they were originally issued (published weekly from April 2017-April 2021, then bi-weekly starting in July 2021). New issues will be added regularly.
The Field Incident/NPS Morning/Coalition Reports can be viewed chronologically (grouped by year).
Additionally, the Incidents section (listed chronologically) has been extracted from these reports and can be viewed by selecting a park unit. Note: The incident dates reflect when they appeared in a report, not (necessarily) the date the actual incident occurred.
Of related interest, when Bill Halainen began working in Ranger Activities in 1985, Bill was charged with communicating with the field (which at the time meant by mail). A printed bi-monthly publication called Ranger Activities Information Exchange was his inaugural effort. The mailings went to regional chief rangers, park chief rangers, and sundry offices and centers. Forty-four issues produced from October 1985 to December 1991 are available at: Ranger Activities Information Exchange.
By 1992, the NPS Morning Report was being distributed broadly across the Service, however, Bill felt that there was still a need for a publication that was more focused on ranger operations. Clear Text (an Incident Command System term meaning 'communicating in plain language') was launched on November 12, 1992. It contained mostly programmatic information and was distributed bi-weekly via cc:Mail. It ran until April 3, 1996, when the NPS Morning Report became the primary means of communication. All issues are available at: Clear Text.
Our thanks to Bill Halainen for his decades of hard work in assembling these Reports, but also for sharing his electronic archive which has enabled us to resurrect these old reports for public access once again.