“Some days you catch the bear; some days the bear catches you. But every day is a different bear.”
Long ago when the Herald-Times was called The Herald-Telephone, editor Bill Schrader used that phrase to explain why working for a daily newspaper never gets old.
I’ve been in the business for almost 50 years now and it’s still exciting most of the time, but the pace has gotten more tiring. So this weekend, I’m hanging up the metaphorical green visor I first put on as editor of my high school newspaper and beginning a new phase of my life.
My professional career began right after I graduated from high school in 1973. I worked summers as a reporter, photographer, and general vacation fill-in at the Herald-Press in Huntington while earning a journalism degree at Ball State University. After gigs at the Fortville and Franklin newspapers involving news and sports work, I ended up at the HT in 1980 and have worked here ever since, mostly as an editor, page designer, and behind-the-scenes manager.
I have been involved in many memorable stories over the years. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the office at the right time to help produce the only two HT “extras” at the time – one announcing the 1999 murder of the Indiana Korea University graduate student. Won-Joon Yoon by a white supremacist, the other rushing news of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I spent a lot of time on follow-up coverage of both incidents, but we may never see another extra.
Great local stories that I was involved in editing and/or featuring on the front pages of the HT included numerous NCAA basketball and football successes from Indiana University, championships high school sportsmen, the firing of IU coach Bob Knight, near-riots related to the Little 500 games and the IU NCAA championships, elections, tornadoes, floods, fires and plane crashes.
There were also important stories going on, about PCB pollution, the loss of RCA/Thomson and other major local employers, the growth of the Cook Group and the widespread impact of founder Bill Cook on the region, l John Mellencamp’s rise to musical stardom, the spread of I-69 across the region, the fight against homelessness, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the growth of Bloomington from the sleepy college town preserved in ” Breaking Away” from 1979 to today’s more developed city.
Look back:Artifacts discovered while cleaning Bob Zaltsberg’s office
From the early years, I particularly remember working with a group of publishers who struggled to find a way to present the news of President Ronald Reagan injured by a potential assassin on the same front page that advertised the men’s basketball championship. IU NCAA 1981. — it was a designer’s nightmare, but a solution was found.
Since 2019, I’ve been the #2 head of the HT newsroom, doing editing and planning, providing institutional knowledge and continuity, and generally being a utility player as the newsroom has gone through four editors / different directors of information as a result of long years. the retirement of editor Bob Zaltsberg.
The pace of change over the past few years has been head-spinning, including the paper’s sale to GateHouse Media/Gannett, the impact of COVID, and staff cuts, but I think I’m leaving the paper in good hands. with current news director Jill Bond and her staff. They are determined to see HT continue to adapt and thrive in the digital age.
There are many reasons why I have stayed at HT for nearly 42 years, including the wonder that is Bloomington and the changes in technology and business model that have allowed me to constantly learn, essentially starting a new used several times.
But the main reason is the wealth of talented and caring colleagues I had the honor to work alongside, people who saw work not just as a job, but as a calling. Journalists, photographers, editors, designers and those working in other departments have been dedicated to serving the community, and so are those currently on staff.
Meet the staff of the Herald-Times.
If I started naming four decades of my HT family, I would go on forever and still leave out a lot of people. But special thanks to Zaltsberg for his many years of mentorship and support, to fellow Huntington native Bob Hammel, who quietly set the bar for great writing and incredibly hard work, and to Barb Ralls, who hired (along with Schrader) for a copy office. work and became a dear friend and my Siamese work twin until he retired a few years ago.
Newsroom jobs don’t pay much. Most people who stay in the field are more like social workers than business moguls – they strive to produce compelling journalism that makes a difference to their communities and ideally hope their work will attract enough readers. and income to keep them employed.
HT’s current press team is a small but mighty mix of talented journalists, some veterans, some fresh out of college, all working hard for you.
In the past year alone, we’ve kept you informed about the attempted annexation of Bloomington, rising local gun violence, concerns over health care costs, soaring oil prices real estate, the impact of COVID, the challenges faced by homeless people, a major flood flash, labor shortages, candidates for local public office and more. We’ve also covered Indiana’s college and high school sports, local culinary and entertainment scenes, and provided photos and news stories that introduced you to interesting events and people in our community.
Despite this, some of you are angry “the newspaper isn’t what it used to be” and don’t like being told to spend more time reading HT news online, where we can get you more content much faster and that doesn’t get wet in the aisle. Paper journals have a special tactile and visual appeal, and you don’t want it reduced. I understand that. For decades I have put blood, sweat and anguish into designing and editing these printed pages for you, working late nights, weekends and holidays to inform you in right time.
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The decision to emphasize our digital product is driven by the information-consuming audience, not us. We would still be focused on the print newspaper if thousands more people were still buying it every day, reading articles, clipping coupons and shopping at big local stores like the now defunct Macy’s and Kmart and Marsh who bought big ads in the paper. But as more and more readers and potential readers have turned to information and advertising on their computers and phones, and do much of their shopping on the Internet, we have been compelled to move to where the masses live now.
I’m known in the newsroom for being quite outspoken – apparently some new reporters were scared of me initially because of my penchant for yelling at reporters in the newsroom as I met the deadline to quickly resolve the problematic points of the articles. I often prioritize efficiency over social graces, but I’m a softie on the inside — really.
So please forgive me if I tell you that if you haven’t entered the digital age, your head is in the sand. It’s like someone in my youth was still totally focused on the radio for entertainment while everyone else was watching TV. Computers aren’t new — I’ve been working on them since I was 25, and at 66 I get most of my news on a computer at work or on my phone on the go. Even my father and mother-in-law, who would be 100 if they were still alive, used computers in their retirement years, but not commonly.
Like it or not, you can’t stop change — you have to keep adapting, and so does your journal. The HT will continue to produce printed editions as long as it is economically feasible. We love them too. But the Internet is where future readers can be reached and where my colleagues will need to focus to maintain the viability of the Herald-Times for decades to come.
The good news is that HeraldTimesOnline.com continues to improve, bringing you more news, features and sports than ever before, both locally and from Gannett affiliates across the state and country.
In the months to come, you may still see my signature photos running with my wife Carolyn VandeWiele’s independent Food Fare columns. But otherwise, now is the time for me to catch up on personal projects and find new ways to serve the community I have loved for a long time.
I wish the staff of HT good luck in continuing the important work of a free press.