The newspaper business – My life – 55 years and counting

August 5, 1964 was the first edition of the Madison County Carrier. My parents (at the young age of 25) founded and started this newspaper with no newspaper experience at all; but with a lot of hard work, dedication and will-power.
A lot has changed in 55 years. My Dad and Mom are no longer in the newspaper business and I have become what is known as the 2nd generation; along with now publishing four newspapers a week, the Madison County Carrier, the Madison Enterprise-Recorder, the Monticello News and the Jefferson County Journal.
As a child, I never had to wonder what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I grew up doing what I knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life – the newspaper business.
As children, my brothers and I did not receive an allowance at home. We got paid for working at the newspaper business. If we didn’t work, we didn’t get any money. (That’s one lesson that too many young people have missed, nowadays.)
We began work at a young age. At age three, I was taught how to opaque the negatives. Red pencil, light table and a negative – it’s just like coloring. Picking up paperclips, pens, rubber bands and such off the floor was my other “main” job (and of course I’m sure a “busy” job for my parents to give me.)
By age five to six (the age of being taught to read), I was taught how to type on the typesetter. I could type out the words for the advertising, take it into the darkroom and develop it. I was also taught how to proofread ads. Other jobs included “busy work” like organizing the clip art books, proof sheet books and border tapes.
Each year as I grew older, so did my abilities to do more “important” things around the office. Making pictures in the darkroom, building ads, pulling tearsheets, stuffing newspapers, addressing newspapers, doing the newspaper route, making PMT’s, selling advertising, working wrecks, developing plates, and plating up the press. Of course back then we didn’t have computers and one of my main jobs was typing the stories. By the time I entered the 8th grade and was put into a typing class, I was already typing 80 wpm correctly. When I was 19 years old I became the main bookkeeper of the business; accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, and taxes. I learned them all from the School of Hard Knocks.
The newspaper business seemed easier, sometimes, back then; and looking back it seemed a lot more fun. There was so much to do and you didn’t just sit behind a desk and a computer all day to do it.
We laid out the newspaper with wax and scissors. We used Xacto Knives and rulers. We had border tape and clip-art books that we had to flip page by page by page to find ‘just the right picture.’
There was no time to play on the computer or internet (even if those things had been readily available) for we were all too busy working. No email, no Facebook, no iphones. We used typewriters, typesetters, film, and lots of ‘good ole sweat.”
We worked until 3 a.m. on press deadline nights, just to rush it to the press and rush back to stuff papers, run them through the Addressagrapher and get them to the post office before the mail went out. Tensions ran high at 3 a.m. But, the next day we were all friends again and late night attitudes were no longer remembered.
We pushed hard all day long and all week long to get the newspaper out. My Daddy never let us slack. Some of his favorite sayings were: “Turn your hat around” (hurry up doing what you’re doing and get back here to do something else), “10-18” (the law enforcement dispatch signal for hurry up) and “It Don’t Rain On Harvey Greene Hill” (rain, snow, sleet or hail – we were going to get up and go to work – PERIOD).
Newspaper ink gets in your blood, they say. My favorite newspaper jobs back then were burning plates, developing plates, plating up the press and running the press. Things I no longer get to do since we don’t own a press anymore; and computers have taken a lot of that away from even the printing plants, now. But oh how I love to still walk into a printing plant and smell the ink; brings back memories of days gone by.
Yep, a lot of things have changed in the last 55 years since my parents started the Madison County Carrier. There is now what can be considered BC (before computers) and AC (after computers).
In life, always remember … when it’s all said and done...when you wake up each morning and dread the job that lies ahead of you, then it’s time to change jobs. But, when you wake up each morning and find joy in what lies ahead of you, then you know you have the right job for you.
I wake up happy each and every day!