Tag Archives: editor

When you’re no longer a ‘new’ editor, you milk it for all it’s worth

In May I celebrated the 14th anniversary of becoming the 15th publisher of the Waterville Times in upstate New York.

In some ways my past lives at daily newspapers register on the memory meter only now and then, perhaps when breaking news falls between our weekly print cycles or, when for the 30th time in a day, people ask me about a hot topic in our community.

I have learned to hold off my laugher when someone starts to tell me about something they heard, and then stop in mid-sentence to say, Oh, wait, I read it in the Times.

For at least the first five years of owning the Times, people always called me the new editor. I wondered just how long someone had to do this job to no longer be new.

Slowly I learned names and titles, names of children and grandchildren, began to unravel the tangled family connections that come in a community where many families have their surnames on local roads and streets.

My mental Rolodex gained speed as I moved beyond names to people’s history when I saw them. Works at the hardware store. Daughter on the basketball team. Wrote the letter to the editor. Son was in our Baby edition.

Still, I would occasionally hear myself introduced as being new. But about five years ago I did something I now trot out as having firmly established my Waterville cred.

Three days of steady spring rains caused creeks to overflow. A bad storm knocked down trees and fences. I knew from listening to my scanner that morning the local fire department was out pumping flooded cellars. I soon left the house to take photos of the damage.

Driving along our local highway just north of the village, I spotted a flash of color that jumped out in the rain and gloom. It was the orange and white of a Guernsey cow, huddled knee deep in a flooded ditch on the shoulder of the highway. I looked at the cow and the tumblers fell into place. Guernsey. Baldwin farm. Denny. Fire chief. Pumping cellars. I knew the cow that had escaped the field and crossed the highway to stand in the flooding ditch belonged to our local fire chief.

I pulled over and called Village Hall, asking the clerk to radio the fire chief to say one of his cows was standing on the side of Route 12. After snapping the cow’s photo, I drove off to take more photos.

Two days later a note came in the mail. ‘Thanks,’ it read. ‘She is one of our best milkers.’

The next time someone started to call me new, I stopped him. “No,’’ I said. “I don’t just know people or their kids or their grandkids or even their dogs. I know their cows.’’

In my rural farming community, there can be no better way to show you belong.

And the view from the editor’s catbird seat…

Hollywood — and perhaps journalists daydreaming about a better life — create an image of the community publisher that may be overly romanticized.

Cheryl Wormley, publisher and co-owner of the Woodstock Independent, used to grocery-shop at 6 a.m. “It was the only way I would get out of there in less than an hour,’’ she said, recalling shopping later in the morning when she’d be sure to run into any number of local residents eager to discuss items that had run – or “should” run – in “their” newspaper.

On Tuesday evenings Bill Miller Jr., general manager of the Washington Missourian, gives tours to Boy Scouts needing their Media badge. Tuesdays is when the press operates. “I take them on the pressroom floor so they can look through the windows and see the press running,’’ Miller said. “It’s still a thrill to see their eyes light up.’’

For Tim Lyke, publisher of the Ripon Commonwealth Press, it can be a struggle not to say anything sarcastic when some people come in and request their news be published. “They say ‘Will you put this in the paper,’’’ Lyke said. “Then ask, ‘What does day does it come out? I don’t read it.’”

“I look at them, because here they just came in to ask for a favor and admitted they don’t buy the paper. Sometimes they get embarrassed and say, I guess I should subscribe. What I want to say is how can you live in a community and not read the local paper? You are taking democracy for granted.’’

Mike Dalton wears the title of editor of the Cannon Falls Beacon, the paper his family has owned since 1880. The job description differs greatly from that of an editor at a larger paper.

“I take care of financials, business decisions, updating our webpage, writing general news stories, writing all of our sports stories and just really whatever needs to be done.’’

At the Eldon Advertiser, Publisher Trevor Vernon operates the press most weeks. “The amount of physical labor it takes to print and insert a newspaper normally surprises people.’’

During college Vernon worked part-time in the press room. His father told him if he was thinking of coming back to work in Eldon, he had to know how to run the press.

“My dad never knew how to run the press. He said when the pressmen would tell him that something wouldn’t work, he never knew if they were afraid to try it or it was something mechanical that really was not possible,’’ Vernon said.

Mary Ungs-Sogaard, publisher of the Cascade Pioneer and Dyersville Commercial in eastern Iowa, had a brief appearance in the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, filmed in Dyersville. “Third extra in the last shot,’’ she said.

The first thing and the last thing she does each day is check emails. “You are a publisher 24/7,’’ she said. “People don’t want to wait till I am at the office.’’

Once when her reporter was on vacation, Ungs-Sogaard took the call about a church on fire. She grabbed her camera and drove to the fire.

“I started shooting as I got to the church,’’ she said. “One of my pictures won a state award. I got a lot of mileage out of that with my staff, letting them know I still could get down in the trenches.’’