By the time you read this, I will no longer be working as a journalist. After 20 years as a graphic designer at newspapers — 13 years as the KPC presentation editor — I am moving on.
As I lay out my final pages, I’m getting nostalgic about my time spent in journalism.
The Chronicle-Tribune in Marion, Indiana, gave me my first real job in 1999. I remember Y2K being a huge scare for everyone that first year. Would all our computers stop working? Would the town fall apart? It seemed exciting in the newsroom. Luckily, the year 2000 came in with very little glitches.
That was also the year that George Bush was elected president. Just barely. It was a very exciting night at the newspaper when we first announced that Al Gore was the winner, but later had to reprint that George Bush had won. It was the first time I really understood the election process and learned terms like hanging chads.
Then 9/11 happened. Since my boyfriend and I (now my husband of 15 years) both worked on the news desk of this small paper, we were an integral part of getting the news out. Working second shift at the newspaper meant we were sound asleep and missed the news on the morning of Sept. 11. I did, however, wake to a noise in my living room. I stumbled downstairs to see our friend and staff photographer climbing through our window. I’ll never forget him saying “an airplane struck the World Trade Center.” Followed by, “You guys need to get to work.”
We lived at the newspaper that week. It was horrific watching the coverage constantly. The day that hit me hardest was when people started making missing posters of their loved ones. They looked hopeful, but terrified. I knew most of them weren’t coming back.
The people at the paper are my fondest memories. My bosses inspired me for years to come. Juli Metzger was tough but encouraging. She pushed us hard. She had a quote in her office by race car driver Mario Andretti that said, “If you have everything in control, you’re not moving fast enough.” That sums up her personality perfectly. And she cussed a lot. I liked that. It was just how I imagined newspapers.
Tammy Pearson was the yin to her yang: so gentle, a great teacher, and the one who could slow things down a notch to think them through.
Under this leadership, we created a five-part series called Moment of Truth, examining the hardships of the area, and there were many. Our little paper was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. We didn’t win, but nonetheless an amazing accomplishment. I’ll never forget, afterward, Tammy said to me, “after this, you’re going to be able to write your own ticket.”
Next, my husband and I started to get calls from a paper in southern California, The Desert Sun, in Palm Springs. They heard about us through other coworkers who had gone to work there. They offered us exactly the positions we were looking for — me as a features designer and my husband as the online editor. We were young and it was so beautiful there. So we went.
It was an exciting time. The newsroom was four times the size as the Marion paper. Lots of young people. We went out a lot. Went to Los Angeles a lot to visit friends a lot as well. Went hiking in the nearby beautiful canyons on Thanksgiving and Christmases.
But soon enough, I was getting an itch to head back. My sister and sister-in-law were both expecting. And California was expensive. We had to share a car to afford living there.
So we left, not before getting hitched at a beautiful inn in Palm Springs. A mariachi band played as we married in a courtyard at Palm Springs’ oldest inn, the San Jacinto mountains in the backdrop. We still miss this area.
At this time, I did get a call from a former editor. He was now at USA Today, and wanted to talk to me about a job. How incredible! USA Today! A huge paper and he was a huge idol to me in the business — I got to work with him for only a short time in California. I wondered if this was what Tammy meant when she told me I could write my own ticket.
But my heart was already home in Indiana. I wanted to be near family and buy a home. So we moved back.
The last 13 years I have been at KPC. I came in full time. But before long, I had two kids of my own.
Being the family-oriented owners they are, the Housholders let me go part-time. I showed them a proposal on how I could continue to do most of my important tasks.
During my time at the paper, I have seen many changes. Three times we took our paper down in size a half inch. Did you know when newspapers started out they were taxed by the number of pages? That’s why newspapers were so big back in the day — fewer pages, less taxes paid by companies per page. In today’s world, the huge paper became cumbersome. Especially when technology advanced and brought us things like the iPad to read our news on.
Those size reductions were a huge task. That little change meant a million changes were needed in how we made our papers. Font sizes, number of paragraphs, paragraph gutters, the size of every style element — all these changes to our 200 templates, for our many publications. I think I shed a few tears of frustration during those times.
I’ve also seen many staff members come and go. When I started I was the young girl in the newsroom. The newsroom was full of people who had worked here for many, many years. But after a while, the long-timers mostly left, and a younger crowd started to fill the newsroom. I was suddenly one of the oldest.
And we’ve had to keep up with times. We have put a lot more of our focus on our online content — including videos and Facebook and Twitter updates.
But now it just feels like it’s my time to move on too. Pass the baton on to someone else.
My new job will be at a baking supply shop, Country Kitchen Sweetart, in Fort Wayne. It combines my love of creativity and working with people, with lots of options for growth and learning. I’m ready for that new challenge.
I’m very grateful for my time in the newspaper industry and at KPC, though.
Thank you to everyone who helped me with story ideas and let our team interview or photograph you.
Thank you to my bosses who trusted me to do my job part-time as my kids were growing up. To me, this was how “writing my own ticket” really paid off. I was able to be with my kids so much during their earliest years.
Thank you to the people who would mention they liked my column or saw my page. That always meant the world to me, and made me want to do my best. And don’t be surprised if, from time-to-time, my byline or photos show up in the paper again.
And thank you to my fellow journalists who continue to work hard in a field that has had its share of challenges. Keep reporting the news we need to know, and also all the honor rolls, the engagements, the babies being born and the science fairs — all those things that keep us connected with our community. Your work is appreciated. And I will be reading!