What an incredible quarter century I have spent working for these community newspapers. Twenty five years spent learning, teaching and contributing to producing your local newspaper. I had several mentors over the years, who each had many more years here than I have racked up. They taught me so much about each department, how it works and how they all fit together. Thank you to each and every one of you (you know who you are) for investing in me and making me better. Much of my work was behind the scenes, planning and organizing, making sure everything came together on deadline. I loved every minute of it!
In late summer of 1991 I decided to re-join the work force. With kids in school, I was looking for something productive and interesting to do. I saw the ad in the paper for a part time ad services clerk, but I had worked in newspapers before. I thought I would enjoy something new. I went on several interviews but nothing popped. I finally gave in and applied at The Dispatch. As soon as I walked in the door and took a deep breath, I felt it, smelled it. That “I’m home” feeling. I guess once it’s in your blood, you’re hooked. I got the job. Within six months I was full time, and within a year I was running the Ad Services department. I moved on to production manager, classified manager, Advertising Manager and Advertising Operations Manager. Now, 25 years later I have a big job, wear many hats and hold a lot of history in my heart and in my mind.
So much change in these years. We did it all here on site, in this same 6400 Monterey Road building, including printing, inserting and delivery. I used an exacto knife and hot wax to “paste up” ads and classifieds. I cut ruby lithe for color ads, shot pages on the enormous page camera and pulled page negatives from the processor and burned plates. I never did get to run the press, but if I had to yell “stop the presses!,” they did. We used color wheels to create the color our advertisers wanted and our press woman (yes I said woman!) hand mixed the inks to create the color. I hand inserted papers, along with the publisher and sales staff, helping out the press and packaging crew when machines were down and we needed to get the papers out. I delivered papers and tearsheets.
I saw us going from everything being done by hand to everything being digital, and from printed papers five days a week to newspaper websites 24/7 and printed papers one day a week. Our industry has always been exciting, but the re-invention over the last 10 years has been challenging and exciting. I miss the 5 days a week hustle and the buzz of more than 150 employees busily doing their part to get those papers out every day. I miss the hum and low rumble of the presses running.
I miss seeing the papers coming off those presses, getting inserted and heading out the door for delivery. I miss the large sales staff coming and going and the whoops and high fives over a great sale or contract. Before everything became digital there was more one on one interaction with coworkers and with business owners and the community. I miss that too. Some of the changes are more efficient but less personal, have allowed the newspaper business to survive, but resulted in fewer jobs and employees along the way.
One thing that never changed is how the people that work here have been part of the community. They live here. Their kids go to school here. They have friends and family here. They are invested in these communities and care deeply about the issues. They celebrate the victories and good things that happen, and they feel the pain that comes from tragedies that befall people here.
I’ve always worked on the advertising and production side with talented people who always did their best to create an attractive paper that would engage the reader. But here I was able to work more closely with the editorial staff. That traditional wall between advertising and news came down enough for me to see how they worked and what they thought. Being in a news room on 9-11 was different than being anywhere else.
You see the anguish, pain and fear on the editors and reporters faces, while they must report what is happening. Same thing happens if someone they know and care about and respect has something bad happen to them or their family. News does their job, but there is no pleasure in reporting the terrible.
I’ve worked for at least five owners and even more publishers. I’ve managed people and processes and special projects. Along the way I have met and worked with some of the most amazing people, here at the newspaper and in the business community. I have made lasting friendships with many and met the love of my life (my husband Sam) here. What a ride it has been!
Do not stop the presses. Keep informing, challenging, celebrating, educating and encouraging these communities and helping businesses grow as these newspapers have done for well over 100 years. I’ve been part of an amazing team. I have no regrets!
Cindy Courter-Montoya is retiring this week after a 25-year career at the Dispatch.