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Post 300 Holds First Reunion

August 12, 2008, nearly 300 employees left Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., under a “Voluntary Separation Program.” Before the end of the year, another 300 employees would be cut, leaving the newspaper at roughly half its size a year earlier.

Some of the Palm Beach Post 300I worked at The Palm Beach Post 35 years as a staff photographer, director of photography, editorial operations manager and telecommunications manager. I agreed to stay on an extra couple of weeks, after the first wave of folks left, to clean up their phone and voice mail programming, so you won’t get to hear about the anniversary of my new life until after Sept. 1. [Here’s a link, as promised.]

Eliot Kleinberg wanted a reunion

Eliot Kleinberg, a reporter who is still working, decided that we should hold an annual reunion on August 12 of each year to see how everyone is doing.

Eliot is one of the The Post’s most inquisitive and prolific writers. He’s written nine books on Florida lore and has forgotten more of the state’s history than any 10 of us knows. He and I worked together dozens of times.

Post Reporter (still) Elliot Kleinberg

Post Reporter (still) Eliot Kleinberg

One story stands out in my mind, though. He and I were to go to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas to meet up with the family of Doctor Mudd, who was convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The family has been trying to clear the doctor’s name for decades.

You have two practical choices to get to Fort Jefferson: a slow boat or a slightly faster seaplane. We elected for the seaplane. I have to share with you that Eliot is a hell of a reporter, a good writer and a fountain of story ideas. He can also be annoyingly perky and bubbly.

Only one of us will be here in the morning

Just before the seaplane pilot took off, stranding us on the island, I told him, “You had better be sure to come back tonight to pick us up. If you don’t there may be only one passenger to take back in the morning.”

The pilot came back, as promised, Eliot wrote his story, I delivered my pictures and Dr. Mudd’s name is still mud, alas.

Listen to Eliot on the video. He’s a true newspaperman with ink in his veins. He told me that he wants to be found face-down on his keyboard when it’s his time to go.

Listen to Eliot at the end of the video

Some of the folks resort to gallows humor in the video, but every one of them has better than 20 years in the business. You don’t log that kind of time if you don’t love it.

Jan Norris, Mother Hen

Jan Norris

Jan Norris

Jan Norris, former food editor, mother hen to what she named The Post 300, and publisher of jannorris.com is the glue that sticks the group together. She had the foresight to collect personal email addresses of all the folks who wanted to keep in touch. She shares any job leads she hears about, passes on news and rumors. If she spent as much time keeping her other website, wewereprint.com up to date, she’d have one of the best media blogs in the country. (That’s something I nag her about.) In addition to that, she’s a long-time friend and sometime riding partner.

Here’s what it looked like when she cleaned out her office and walked out of the newspaper last year.

Mary Kate Leming started The Coastal Star

Coastal Star Publisher Mary Kate Leming

Coastal Star Publisher Mary Kate Leming

Mary Kate Leming and her husband, Jerry Lower, a refugee from The Sun Sentinel, decided that maybe Big Newspapers couldn’t cut it these days, but there was a market for smaller, niche newspapers. They founded The Coastal Star, to cover the coastal communities south of Palm Beach.

With the big dailies cutting back on their coverage and with a pool of experienced freelance journalists available, The Star has exceeded expectations. There’s a chance that we may see The Coastal Star expanding its coverage area. They just made arrangements to move out of the house and into a formal office.

Chuck Keefer turned me on to computers

Charles (Ceekay) Keefer

Charles (Ceekay) Keefer

Charles Keefer, AKA Chuck or Ceekay, sold me a Tandy TRS-80 Model 1 computer, one of the first consumer-grade computers on the market. It came with Level II BASIC, 4K of RAM and required you to type in your programs from the keyboard every time the computer was turned off.

Then he sold me a 300-baud Hayes modem that opened up the world of computer bulletin boards to me. The Internet, of course, was still a dream.

When I was cleaning out my office, I ran across a clip of a story we had done covering Ft. Lauderdale’s Spring Break back when it was still a Big Deal.

Girls Gone Wild

I was standing on a bed in a beachfront hotel shooting a bunch of college boys doing what college boys did back before Girls Gone Wild. (Mostly drinking and DREAMING of Girls Going Wild.) A bunch cops charged in the room and started giving the boys a royal ration and trying to scare them into admitting they had a ton of dope stashed some where. One of them noticed me and started to get his cop on.

I motioned for him to go outside. “Look, I know you have to go through the drill to make the hotel manager happy, but we both know you’re not going to bust anybody unless they get seriously out of line. I’ve been with these kids most of the evening. They’re not being all that rowdy, and I haven’t seen ’em doing any serious dope. How about we both go back in there and do what we have to do without making a big deal out of it.”

After huffing around a little bit, he must have seen the logic of my argument. He went back, made “I don’t want to have to come back here tonight” noises and moved on down to rooms that weren’t lucky enough to have reporters visting them.

Glenn Henderson, bureau chief

Glenn Henderson

Glenn Henderson

Glenn Henderson was a bureau chief in Stuart, one of The Post’s far-flung remote offices. Just before his staff was reduced to a total of two, the bureau had taken over a whole new bay in the suite of rented offices. My telecom staff spent weeks rewiring the facility and pulling in extra services.

Glenn was one of those solid, competent pros you liked working with.

The Post gave those taking buyouts two weeks of pay for every year we had worked, up to a maximum of 52 weeks. The catch is that the paper wanted to take the full financial hit in 2008, so many of us found ourselves in tax brackets we had only dreamed about. Glenn, who was dealing with a kid in college, ran into another problem: that much income all at once made the family ineligible for scholarships based on need.

He started a communications business, but has found that some of the clients he was working on have dried up along with the economy.

Gary Brown, a guy you’ve never heard of

Most of the folks I’ve mentioned had bylines. You may have read their stories or seen their pictures. There is another group of folks (at least in the Days of The Dead Trees) who read the copy the reporters turned in for accuracy, spelling, grammar and clarity. Others would lay out the paper, deciding on where the stories would run, how long they would be and what the headlines would say.

Gary Brown

Gary Brown

Gary Brown was one of those behind-the-scenes guys who jockeyed copy around. When I got into the business, your story was touched by a whole lot of people before it got thrown into a puddle.

They even had proofreaders whose actual job was to make sure that the type that was set was the same as the copy you handed the typesetter. In real life, they’d bend the rules to save you. The nice ones would come over and say, diplomatically, “This copy looks like there’s a smudge on it. The typesetter read what I THINK you wrote as Mayor Hiller as Mayor Hitler. Which is right?”

Modern technology, particularly in the web world eliminates those safeguards and filters (and jobs). The person writing the story may be the only one who touches it before it’s launched to the world.

That’s why Gary says he’s just about given up on print after sending out 500 resumes and getting zero response.

Every office has (had) a Ron Hayes

Acerbic Ron Hayes

Acerbic Ron Hayes

Just listen to the video. You’ll see what I mean. A lot of people used an A-word to refer to him. Acerbic is the one that could be printed in the paper.

I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to get around to seeing everyone who showed up.

I’ll have more war stories when the anniversary of my departure comes up, and I’ll publish photos of our press and production crews closer to the end of the year, which will be the anniversary of The Post farming out its printing to the Ft. Lauderdale paper.

[Editor’s note: Jan Norris thinks I should add the following to Ron’s description. Since I agree, here it is:

When it gets to Ron Hayes — A-word is OK.  But please add a line to the effect that he was and is one of the most passionate about the news business (the alter-dark side of Eliot) — and was the one reporter who never failed to hold up editorial and newsroom ethics to the same scrutiny as we gave those we covered. The entire newsroom respected him – despite his cynicism – for speaking up.

Ron also weighed in: Is it true you can’t print “amazing” on your website…?

I should start a poll of Ron’s coworkers to see where “amazing” fits on their list of a-words. Nah, I think I’ll skip that.]

Treasure Coast Staff Holds Reunion

Members of The Post’s Treasure Coast (TCoast) Post 300 held their reunion Friday night.


15 comments to Post 300 Holds First Reunion

  • Jon

    Kudos to Eliot for the inspiration and Ken for video and reporting at the reunion. Nice to hear the tales of survival and progress from 1,300 miles away.

    Best,

    Jon

  • Al Tays

    Wow, great stuff. Wish I could have been there.

    Best to all. You were a great group to work with for 10 years.

    Al Tays

  • Candy

    Hurray for the Post 300! The best group of folks a girl could hope to work with. You all continue to inspire me and make me laugh. Cheers to all!
    Candy Hatcher

  • Dittos to you, too, Candy.

    Folks who may not read this blog on a regular basis may not know that you featured in a story about the Blue Heron Bridge.

    http://www.palmbeachbiketours.com/2009/01/07/s-floridas-mountain-the-blue-heron-bridge/

  • Big ups to Eliot for organizing this, although when I heard The Post 300″ I was looking forward to something more like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDiUG52ZyHQ

    It’s good to hear what everyone’s up to.

    Keep up the good fight,
    Will Sullivan

  • Will,

    Sorry to disappoint you. My budget’s a little light for that kind of production right now.

  • Stephanie Artero

    Ken,

    Thanks for the report and photos… I enjoyed it all. Wish I could’ve made it (had a school open house; here goes Year 2.)

    Best to all,

    Stephanie

  • Bob Shanley

    Sorry I wasn’t able to make it, had to work that night. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. I celebrated a year on my new job, started Aug. 14th, one day off between jobs, whoopie, completed 2 semesters of school at PBCC, bought a motorcycle and never looked back, in fact I find I hardly even glance at the POST as I pass by. Stopped getting the newsletter they now publish. I wish all my friends and fellow POSTIES best wishes, hope to make the next reunion. Bob

  • Bubba,

    You know where I live. Stop by any time. We can trade old Gastonia Gazette stories.

  • Cynthia ("Kop" as dubbed by Eliot) McCabe

    It made me smile to see friendly faces/great reporters getting their due on this site. We’ll have to mark the next Aug. 12 gathering on our calendars for a Palm Beach visit.

  • I got my “Happy Anniversary” greetings from Chuck McGuiness the morning of the twelfth. I did not know that there would be a gathering. But if I had, I would’ve been there in spirit. I’ve managed to land on my feet in the country of my birth – TEXAS. It’s taken a long time and still some heartaches occassionally, but Jamie and I are now in the Houston area where I’m working as a photographer for the University of Texas Medical School. I have to say I miss the paper, but I guess I should say that I miss all the fine professionals I had the honor to know when I was there. There is life after journalism, a profession I followed like a calling for 30 years. I would’ve liked to have stuck around, but all good things must come to an end. So all good things can begin. I will always think of everyone when Aug. 12th rolls around every year. And while I’m celebrating my birthday on that date, I’ll hoist one for the team. And I have to say the thought of Shanley on a motorcycle just grought a huge smile to my face.

  • Chris,

    Today was my one-year anniversary. I left two weeks after everyone else.

    http://www.palmbeachbiketours.com/retirement-from-the-newspaper-one-year-later/

    I told folks on Facebook that I worked for papers in four states. Five, if you count the State of Decline.

    Glad to see so many good folks moving on to the next stage of their lives.

  • Bethany Mesina

    Does ANYONE know how I can reach staff writer, Jill Taylor? She did a story on my husband and I would like to have her informed as to the MAJOR developments for follow-up.

    Thank you.

  • Bethany,

    I’ll forward your message on to someone who has Jill’s address.

  • Ken Garland

    Beautiful story. We all worked with people like these and treasure those stories. The newspaper I worked for in Memphis closed its doors on Halloween (ironic, isn’t it?) 1983. We had a 25 year reunion a year ago, and it was great seeing people that I have missed. Funny how the big business of newspaper chains can kill and mangle people and not care.