Writer’s Roost

A few visits with fellow news folks, you’re good friends



Over the years, newspaper people, particularly those at small town papers, have learned not to make long and/or grandiose vacation plans.

In addition, if you’re doing your job right by reporting the news as it happens, you’re going to alienate at least half the people (and usually all of the politicians/ elected officials).

The long hours required in publishing a country weekly, for instance, are necessary because there are never enough employees. You can’t afford to hire all the reporters and photographers you need, let alone the proper amount of production people.

In most of the 50-plus years I edited and published country weeklies, seven-day weeks were the norm rather than the exception. Eightyhour weeks (often more) are average. During off time you’re either feeding your face or your sleep-deprived body, so that leaves little time for creating fast friendships with very many people.

On top of that, there’s little time (or energy) for extracurricular activities. However, Life Mate and I did discover short-term respites that were restful and educational — newspaper conventions.

If you managed your schedule well, there were at least three and maybe four conventions — each spread out over three days — that you begin to count on as mini-vacations. You get to travel. The meeting is at a nice hotel where the food is anywhere from edible to excellent. You hear speakers that are experts in some area of newspapering.

An early mentor — Rigby Owen Sr. of Conroe — advised me before I went to my first press convention to go with the idea that I was going to learn something that would either make enough money in selling advertising or subscriptions or save enough money on expenses, to pay for the trip. That never failed to work for me.

While, most sessions are quite beneficial, Pop Owen told me, new friends in the business are even more valuable.

His revelation included the explanation that there aren’t really any new ideas in the business, just new twists on old ones. “If you talk to another editor-publisher,” Pop would advise, “tell him what you’re having a problem with and, chances are, he’ll have a different approach that works better.”

I discovered in a short time that Pop was right — the greatest benefit was friendships. We spoke the same language. We had similar problems but usually there was something beneficial in how a fellow publisher-friend approached the situation.

After a while, those friendships grew and even though you didn’t see each other but three or four times a year, I discovered a truly amazing thing.

Often, in the short time at a convention, you have to leave just as the conversation is warming up. Sometimes, to get home and confront the killer schedules made more murderous by absence, you leave in mid-sentence. Then a truly amazing thing happened — I found that both my new good news friend(s) and I could pick up the conversation right where we’d stopped a few months earlier.

While I’m now retired, I still have several friends in the business that we see at conventions and a few retired editor-publisher types who also attend and the magic continues.

We were all saddened recently, though, when one of our retired friends died unexpectedly.

Rollie Hyde published the Hearst paper in Plainview for several years before he hung up his ad sales hat. He tried raising cattle just before retiring and said he lost his shirt. His sense of humor was keen. However, Rollie could laugh harder at himself than anyone else. He was almost always smiling. But, I loved to make him laugh more than I wanted to laugh myself because Rollie laughed all over and it was infectious.

I’ll miss Rollie Hyde.

WILLIS WEBB is a retired community newspaper editorpublisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at wwebb1937@att.net.

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