Yesterday Brian and I spent our afternoon at the retirement party of Mike Mentzer and Tom Guenther, two veteran newspapermen. Between the two of them, they racked up 75 years in the biz; Mike began working at The Reporter in 1972 and Tom in 1975. They both received a "golden parachute" offer they couldn't resist - such are the ways of the newspaper industry these days.
These great guys began their careers when Linotype was still in use, and some of those Lino operators were in attendance yesterday. Think about that! That's not even that long ago, really, at least in my mind. The thought that someday the local paper would be paginated in Des Moines, Iowa would've been preposterous. Yet that's exactly how it's done these days.
Renee Dufore-Russell, who was a longtime reporter at the paper, brought in a great old photo from the Sixties (she began her career there in 1969). Nearly everyone had an ashtray on their desk, and she told this great story about being very early in her pregnancy (no one knew yet) and becoming nauseated at the smell of the stogey one of the sports writers enjoyed daily. It's hard to fathom now, isn't it? While looking at this same photo, some of the "crustier" reporters and editors were singled out because of their salty language and rather coarse disciplinary style. That type of behavior would never be tolerated in today's corporate culture, and there was a feeling in the room yesterday that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to bring it back.
My own newspaper career spanned 17 years, on and off (1993-2010). Even in that short time everything changed - we went from paste-up composing to all Mac-designed to remote pagination. We went from ridiculously lucrative to, well, not so much. We've seen our numbers shrink and newspapers close, but one thing remains the same - a hard-working staff who upholds the Fourth Estate every single day. These dedicated folks truly believe in what they do, and I salute them for it.
If this post seems a little defensive, you've read me right. In a world of "pundits" screaming at each other on nonsensical programs via 24-hour news channels, I think we'd be well served to have a little more newspaper-reading in our lives. Remember that, when people would sit with their papers after dinner (in my hometown) or at the breakfast table and READ? I do, and I'm sad that it doesn't happen as much anymore. Reading allows us to digest information through our own filter, not someone else's. And reading a paper-paper, as opposed to reading it online, allows one to read with no other distractions. It's a pillar of civility that, much like the post office, I'm sad to see dwindling.
And let's be honest - in my nostalgia-filled world, nothing's better than local newspaper advertisements featuring local businesses! All of the ones you see here are still in business in Fond du Lac:
Just another wonderful part of your local paper. :D