The life of this editor

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Next week, several newspapers across the country will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of National Newspaper Week, Oct. 4-10. This year marks my 39th anniversary of working within the newspaper industry in one of many ways. Together, you can celebrate with our industry and myself.

Whether it was in the back print shop of my grandfather's print shop/newspaper with a broom and emptying trash cans to managing a paper. I have been blessed with opportunities to do everything in between.

Allow me to share some of my thoughts during this celebration.

1. How many years have you been with the company?

I began in March of 1995 as a sales rep at the Dexter Daily Statesman commuting from Lilbourn everyday, a 33.6 one way trip. At the time Barbara Hill was the publisher and complimented me for getting to work before the ones living in Dexter did. Prior to Dexter, I had worked at the Wayne County Journal-Banner, a weekly publication in Piedmont. The newspaper belongs to my grandfather's family. Now, my uncle, Harold, is the sole owner, and ready to retire. Yes, there have been times I have thought about going back and eventually own the paper. That was then. Now, at my age, well, It would be a long time in turning a profit, so I would never get to retire.

2. What was your first job (and how old were you when you started)?

I began working at the Portageville Missourian-News in September of 1997 as Managing Editor. I was hired by then General Manager and print shop foreman Don Hawkins, also a former owner of this newspaper.

I began my career in the back shop of my grandfather's newspaper and print shop. I was only in the second grade at that. I would walk to the office after school everyday. After all, my mother was the business manager there and my ride home. I ask my uncle if there was something I could do, and he ask if a broom handle fit my hand.I ended up sweeping the layout and composing rooms and taking out trash. I remember my grandfather handing me $2.00 for doing a good job. After he paid me, I was hooked into the family business.

I really became more of much needed person in my junior high days. I learned how to opaque page negatives and strip in half tones, burn and develop printing plates, plate the press, put newsprint rolls on the press and wash the press blankets.

Later, I learned darkroom photography in high school and was left in the dark room ever since. Not only did I take and make pictures for school, but at the newspaper. The first 35mm film camera was a Yashica. I had it until 10 years ago. It completely locked up and cost more to fix than to replace.

My life's goal back in the day was to go home and be a press operator at the family business. I went to Arkansas State University, got a BS in Printing Technology, and minor in Journalism Advertising. 80 percent of what I learned in college is obsolete today.

3. What are your favorite things to do outside work?

My wife and I like to travel when time permits. We have a Mini Cooper and partake in Mini Cooper rallies whenever possible. We just completed one event. "Minis Slay the Sleepy Dragon" on the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina, near Marysville.

We are also taking Historic Route 66 by state. We just completed Illinois two weeks ago. I usually try to keep pictures posted on my personal facebook page.

4. Tell us about your family.

My wife, Linda, grew up in the funeral home business, Ponder Funeral Home in Lilbourn. She is now out of the family business. She has been an administrative assistant for Schumacher Financial Services in Sikeston for years and most recently, a legal secretary at a lawyer's office.

We have one son, Rodger. He is a 911 dispatch operator for New Madrid County, and has the grave yard shift. He works 12 hour shifts. He is also a volunteer firefighter for the Lilbourn Volunteer Fire Department. He is also an Eagle Scout.

5. What is your favorite book, movie and song?

I like the hero movies. I guess I am still a kid at heart. They range from James Bond, Star Trek, Star Wars, most of the Marvel comic movies, and the Batman and Superman movies. I am not too sure of this next one. It will be mainly brawn vs. brains.

6. What is the most important or interesting story you have covered.

Let me first say I put in a lot of heart and soul into this product. I may not be the best by any stretch, but I believe I give it my best effort. I tend to treat this product as mind, since I may never be able to do that in my life time, and I take things too personal with regards to what happens. When I make a mistake, it really burns me up, because I did it. Yes. We may overlook typos, and we all do. I look at it as just not one, but a thousand mistakes. That one mistake is repeated in every issue we print, plus the impressions on the web.

That said, for a weekly newspaper, I have to look at every story as interesting. Most of the stories are about local people, organizations, churches and civic groups, local city and county governments. There are stories that are more important than some, but not the least bid interesting. When there are only two staffers, it is difficult to get in everything. We have to decide on what to cover and not.

One experience that has happened to me occurred while I was home during a college break and working as a photographer, or anything else I was needed at. The coroner had called the newspaper about an accidental shooting. It involved a man driving his pickup on a bumpy gravel road with a shot gun on a gun rack n the back panel. It was also loaded. The gun fell and had enough force that the gun went off. My uncle and myself went to the scene, and the coroner had just picked up the mess before the family came to the scene. He missed a piece of the man's skull which I pick up and handed to him. I will never forget that.

Finally, what is interesting to me is the people we meet. With my family owning a newspaper in Piedmont and in Ellington, and working as a sales representative, then coming to work with this company starting at Dexter and now in Portageville, I've had to privilege to meet a ton of folks. My past experiences with them has helped me to adapt lessons in life and use them in current situations.

The saying of what goes around comes around is very true. While I was in high school, working in the back print shop, then Congressman Bill Burlison came to visit the Piedmont newspaper. He meet with my grandpa and uncle, and then toured the plant. That was my first connection with Burlison. Two years ago, I dealt with him on advertising. That simple connection from Piedmont has made dealing with him a lot better. To end, by working here, I have come to appreciate people a little bit more.