Editor reflects on career of telling Jefferson County stories
After working 30 1/2 years at the Madras Pioneer, I couldn't have asked for a more fun and exciting career.
I was first attracted to the romance of journalism in college, because being a reporter opened doors to people, who normally wouldn't give me the time of day. Also, I liked the teamwork atmosphere, and seeing my name in print.
I had a degree in English, with two years of journalism classes, and learned the rest on the job. I'd been trained to pound out stories on a typewriter, but at the Pioneer, learned to use an early computerized "MDT" machine, which had a tiny screen and required the writer to type a line of code to start a new paragraph.
The completed story was fed into a huge Compugraphic machine that printed it out on column-sized strips of paper tape. Then I tackled the dreaded headliner machine, where you had to count out letters to fit the space (A was one space, W was two), shift gears for a capital letter, and if you got it wrong you had to do it all over again. The headlines also printed out on strips of tape.
I was shown how to paste up pages, by waxing the strips of copy and counting the lines to know where to cut the columns to fit. The newsroom was buzzing with activity as co-workers proofread the pages and stripped in corrections using Xacto knives to cut individual sentences from a waxed correction tape.
Photos were printed in a depressing dark room, where an enlarging machine could size pictures, and you physically "dodged" photos by holding a piece of paper over the developing image to lighten or darken areas.
At the Pioneer, a reporter had to be a jack-of-all-trades, so I helped stuff inserts with the rest of the staff, and delivered papers on the street run. To break the monotony of stuffing ad inserts, the staff took turns answering Trivial Pursuit questions, or listened to bird call recordings, and language tapes.
Reporters attend a lot of meetings, and when I was the only reporter, I covered city, county and school board meetings. Once, at a boring County Commission meeting, I actually fell asleep, until the commissioners' laughter woke me up.
The worst thing I ever did during my career, was lose Lura McCaulou's pioneer-era photo album by setting it temporarily on the hood of my car and driving off with it! The album fell off on the street and, fortunately, someone found it and turned it in to the police, who gave it to Lura.
She learned about the near fiasco before I got to tell her, and was in a state of shock when I came to apologize, but graciously told me, "These things happen."
Other major incidents included printing a headline that said, "Surprise, county budget passes," only to learn the absentee ballots hadn't been counted yet, which defeated the budget.
Then there was the time my school board story announced that Pat Riley had been hired as the new middle school principal instead of the actual Pat Kelly. An embarrassed Superintendent Phil Riley called to tell me, "Your article says my wife was named the principal!" (I'd had a brain burp.)
When first hired, I agonized over mistakes and angry phone calls, because I wanted people to like me. But I soon learned to follow the advice of previous editor, Ted Viramonte, who told me bluntly, "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
The best part of the job was the adventure and variety. There was something different to write about every week, and I got to do many thrilling things as a reporter – like ride in a B-17 bomber, a hot-air balloon, and experience a national media mob at presidential candidate Jesse Jackson's 1988 rally in Redmond.
Madras is a small rural town, but after 30 years, I've been amazed that there are always new stories and discoveries cropping up. I learned a lot from people I interviewed, including many Jefferson County pioneers, tribal elders, and World War II veterans.
I got to have my own "Vista" page for a weekly feature story, and thanks to the work of the late local historian Beth Crow, have an index of all my stories, listed by both title and subject matter.
Working at the Pioneer was always a fun job, with a fun crew, and a great boss with a sense of humor and the willingness to give each editor the freedom to be creative. The pay was modest, but I loved coming to work and being part of a news team.
I liked working under deadlines and always told people I wanted to be like (Bulletin correspondent) Carolyn Grote, and work until I was 80. But I didn't count on losing accurate hearing and the ability to remember names. Combining that with the irksome challenges of new technology – I knew it was time for new blood.
And the best part is, Desiree, who's taking my position, is from this area and interned with me when she was in high school! You're in good hands.
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