OPINON: Newspapers: My love, my passion – Petoskey News-Review
This is National Newspaper Week, an appropriate time for me to nostalgically reflect on what the newspaper business has personally meant to this ink-stained, old school journalist.
I may have retired 10 years ago, but my journalistic heart and soul still bleed newspaper ink.
And that ink is splattered around the office at 2058 S. Otsego Ave. — home of my favorite newspaper: The Gaylord Herald Times.
Heck, I still jump in my truck and chase ambulances and fire trucks when they go by my door.
This year marks my 60th associated with newspapers in one form or another.
It has been a trip that was fulfilling and rewarding, but, like most jobs, it also could be trying and emotionally draining at times.
An added bonus, however, was that my job opened avenues for me to serve on boards of various local nonprofit groups and organizations.
My career started with my school newspaper at Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis. From there, I progressed along this route:
• To my college newspaper at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
• To my first paying job at the Portland (Indiana) Commercial-Review.
• To four dailies and a weekly in Indiana and Ohio — from small and medium size towns to Cleveland.
I received well-rounded experience during that phase of my career as a reporter, sports editor, news bureau chief, city editor and editor (not necessarily in that order).
However, in 1967, I reached my final destination — a place that, as a child, was my first love: Northern Michigan. (I spent my early childhood years in Petoskey.)
I longed to come back “Up North”.
And to what town did I migrate northward from Cleveland? Petoskey, of course.
After a six-month break in my journalism journey as a reporter at the Petoskey News-Review, on April 10, 1968, thanks to Albert Schaller (the late News-Review owner who had just purchased the HT), I found myself in Gaylord at the HT, proudly sitting behind what was now my own editor/general manager’s desk located in a small office at 122 N. Otsego Ave., next door to the old A&P super market and across the street from the old St. Mary Church.
I remember the day vividly. It not only marked the beginning of a fantastic 40-year marriage with the Herald Times. It happened to be my 29th birthday.
(Okay. I know. You’re doing the math. Your answer is 78.)
Before I arrived in Gaylord, I had worked exclusively in newspaper editorial departments (aka newsrooms).
I knew very little about the jobs of the people working in “those other departments” “across the tracks” separated from my “sacred” newsroom.
Wow! Was I in for a rude awakening when I arrived at the HT, I quickly learned “those other departments” actually made a contribution to the newspaper business.
Suddenly, in addition to my newsroom duties, I had to worry about advertising sales, circulation, newspaper delivery, payroll, accounts payable and receivable, composition, human resources, office cleaning, temperature in the office (both room temp and human) … and turning the lights out.
Heck. Back in the day, I not only took classified ads over the phone, I was an outside salesperson.
I definitely was involved in a situation of learning by doing, accompanied by lots of mistakes along the way.
By the way, sports fans, computers didn’t exist when I started at the HT.
And then there were those telephone calls to my house in the middle of the night:
“Why didn’t I get my paper in the mail?!”
“How come you misspelled my name in the paper?!”
“If you ever put my husband’s name in the police blotter again, I’ll sue you!”
I learned it was part of the job. And so did my family.
In the early days (only three people on the staff), I attended local government meetings as well as football, basketball and baseball games, track meets and wrestling matches.
And I got to take photos of all the action to boot.
I loved every minute of it!
I made time to cover the police beat and turn out feature stories while writing everything from birth announcements, high school graduations, weddings and anniversaries … to obituaries.
When I could find time, I loved writing opinion pieces (aka editorials and personal columns).
(Side note: Jack Deming, local business and civic leader, once crowned me, infamously: “Poison Pen”, which I graciously accepted — and I’m proud of it.)
Along with my family and friends, it goes without saying that newspapers have truly been my lifeblood.
Though some may disagree, I believe newspapers play an important role in our society, especially in small communities like Gaylord/Otsego County.
Yeah. I know. Many of the large metropolitan newspapers have gone South in many respects. But small newspapers are following a different course.
Please allow me to refer you to P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, author and philanthropist, who once said:
“He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.” That may be a unique way of stating it, but you get the idea.
Undoubtedly, he was referring to small town newspapers like this one.
As a guy who had the privilege of working at the HT all those years, I was blessed with a loyal and hard-working staff.
Man! We had a lot of talent! Which led to numerous state and national awards for journalistic excellence and the newspaper’s overall success in general.
Every member of my family put in time at the newspaper office, also. (Much to their dismay, my four daughters “volunteered” for office duty. I told them it was a good learning experience.)
In that regard, you could call it a “family affair”.
At one time, the HT was essentially the only game in town as far as local news coverage was concerned. The playing field has changed immensely since my retirement.
With the advancement of social media and other alleged/perceived news sources, competition has grown.
As the Bob Dylan song goes: “The Times, They Are A-changin'”.
I especially like the these words:
“Come writers and critics
“Who prophesize with your pen
“And keep your eyes wide
“The chance won’t come again … “
I’m happy to report the Gaylord Herald Times is continually keeping up with the times in the form of digital media and other new innovations.
I see nothing but clear sailing ahead for this newspaper.
And that’s good news for our community.
Happy National Newspaper Week!
I know I’m happy I chose the newspaper profession.
Thanks for all the memories.
Jim Grisso was the publisher of the Gaylord Herald Times for 40 years. He retired in 2007 but continues as a writer and contributor. Jim can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.