An anniversary worth noting

Friday, February 1, 2013

This past week marked my 25th anniversary at The Monett Times. When Dick Brady hired me, he said this was the kind of job where I could stay until I retired. I've always been someone who would stick to a task, no matter how long it took. It should come as no surprise that I am still here.

I came to Monett after working as a reporter/ columnist/reviewer/editor for a national collectibles journal, a magazine that was recently discontinued after a 42-year run. I was there at the beginning and stayed 12 years in differing capacities. Then I worked at a nationally distributed movie magazine for three and a-half years before moving to southwest Missouri for strictly personal reasons. I've been a published writer for over 40 years.

The last 25 years have been very challenging for the newspaper business. Computers were introduced in The Times newsroom in June 1989. Prior to that we wrote on manual typewriters (we skipped electric typewriters) and someone else typeset our stories.

We did not have the equipment to embrace digital photography until the late 1990s. Escaping the time demands of developing film and making prints was the greatest time savings innovation imaginable for those of us who remember darkroom work.

My duties and job title have changed over the years, though I have remained editor of the Viewpoints page since it was introduced in 1992.

I have taken nearly 300 calendar girl photos. My colleagues took over the job for one year but it came back to me for having the best knack at it.

I've written over 250 sales tax stories and around 1,000 city council stories including all the towns we cover. If I took an average of two photos a day----usually it's none or more than two----over 25 years I've shot 15,000 photos for The Times. When it takes more than 100 pictures to capture a Monett Christmas parade, the real total may be more than double that amount.

Every publisher and editor at The Times has had slightly different priorities. The way we have approached the news has changed considerably over time. The "country cousins" columnists who made up a core of the homey quality of the newspaper in Ken Meuser's tenure as owner/publisher have long disappeared. I was privileged in my time to know Pauline Talarski, the last of those columnists, from Pierce City.

Our editorial sensibilities have been shaped by our times. Today the writing in The Times is much tighter, less wordy, more focused on news of substance. Under editor Wilma Henbest, I was taught to write everything I knew about a subject in each story. Now we edit more judiciously. We still have our finger on the heartbeat of the community, even if we don't describe every wedding or minutely trace the finances of cities as we once did.

I cherish the memories I have working with Mrs. Henbest, collaborating with Ken Meuser and living up to the standards set by publisher Stephen Crass. I have been forced to write better, take better notes and learn aspects of subjects like agriculture that I never imagined.

We have faced tragedies together, deaths and natural disasters, as well as triumphs. I'm still proud to be a member of the team that every day strives to tell the story of our communities. Thank you for 25 years.