Looking Back at a Lifetime of Doing Something We Loved

From an AP story headlined “Looking back on a lifetime of service in newspapering”:

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — Six northwestern Kansas newspapers and a shopper have been sold to brothers from Washington and Montana, The Oberlin Herald reported.

Jesse and Lloyd Mullen of Mullen Newspapers purchased The Herald, Colby Free Press, The Goodland Star-News, The Norton Star-Telegram, The St. Francis Herald, Bird City Times and The Country Advocate shopper from Steve and Cynthia Haynes, who are retiring after nearly 30 years with the newspapers.

The Mullen brothers said they were born into a newspaper family in Wyoming, and have bought and operated several newspapers in the western and northwestern U.S.

They named Frank Perea of Holyoke, Colorado, as publisher. Perea said he plans to move to northwestern Kansas in 2023.

The Hayneses, both 74, have been in the newspaper business for over 40 years and hope to spend more time with their family.

“We may do more traveling now,” Mr. Haynes said, “but who knows?”

And their farewell message to readers:

How do you sum up 42 years of your life together, doing a job where your every product was exposed to the scrutiny of not the town, but of people all over the country, and these days all over the world?

Cynthia and I feel fortunate to have been able to do something we loved. To live and work in towns we have loved. To have gone places, met people and seen and done things that many do not get to experience.

We have loved our jobs, most days anyway. I suppose everyone has those days. Dealing with the public is seldom particularly easy, whether it’s a reader, a customer or a public official with a problem.

It’s never been that hard, either, especially because people here are pretty nice. That’s one thing we noticed when we moved to Oberlin in 1993. People would walk across the street to introduce themselves, or maybe that was just Jay Anderson.

But northwest Kansas is a peaceable place. Murders tend to happen once or twice a century in any given county. Bar fights are just as rare. Hardly anyone locks their car – or their house.

I think we can be proud of what we accomplished in our 29 years here. We managed to put our newspapers into the top tier of small-town publications in Kansas, won many awards (not that those are important in and of themselves, but they show what other newspaper editors, in other states, thought of our work). And by our, I mean our entire staff.

We received national recognition for what we had accomplished here, again from other, distant newspaper people.

More than that, when we looked at the papers, we had a sense that we had made them better, had focused them on serving their towns and counties and that readers liked them.

We hope, moreover, that we were thought of as fair, as treating everyone, rich or poor, obscure or widely known, the same. People knew if we got a traffic ticket, our names would be in the paper just as theirs would.

We expected nothing less from public officials. Most of the time, I think we got it. Public administration in this part of the world is mostly fair and honest; it’s done by people who want to do the right thing. That’s good.

Cynthia pointed out that when we signed the papers to sell our newspapers on Thursday, Dec. 2, it was 42 years to the day that we bought our first paper, The Mineral County Miner and South Fork Tines (and no, that’s not a typo; that’s a pun) in tiny Creede, Colo. We were 32, and our kids ranged from 5 months to 6 years.

That was 1980. If you do the math, you’ll know that today, those kids are 42, 45 and 48, and their parents are 74. It’s not that we didn’t love our jobs anymore, just that we seemed to be tired much of the time, and we seemed to be working more and traveling less.

If we were going to have any retirement together, we realized, we had to get with it.
We’re not going anywhere, at least not right away. We do want to spend more time at our place in Creede, with our kids and especially with our grandkids in Arkansas. We still have a lot of places we haven’t seen. Of all the travel we’ve done, only one trip has been to Europe. There’s a lot of this country we haven’t been to, either.

I like to tell people there are a lot of people I haven’t met, a lot of books I haven’t read, a lot of trails I haven’t walked and a lot of fish I haven’t caught.

So, time is fleeting. We’re excited to get with it.

We’ll be giving up a lot.

Being at the newspaper is like having a ringside seat for the affairs of the town, the state and the world. You get to meet people, and politicians seek you out. We’ve been fortunate enough to get to know some of the best public servants in the nation, including Congressman, later Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and later Sen. Ken Salazar, then Secretary of the Interior Salazar, and his former boss, Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado come to mind. We met Gov. (and then Sen.) Ben Nelson of McCook, whom we ran into over the weekend. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska and his wife Sally Ganem.

In Kansas, Congressman, later Sen. Jerry Moran, impressed us when he was in the Legislature. Rep. Tracey Mann we met when, barely out of K-State, he ran his first, losing statewide race.

In Washington, we met so many interesting people. I got to introduce Sen. Barak Obama, and former Sens. Bob Dole and John Kerry – my is he tall. With Sen. Dole, we got nearly two hours to talk about the old days in Kansas politics.

I never imagined myself, growing up, in one of those gilt-trimmed formal reception rooms where you see foreign leaders meet with people, but as president of the National Newspaper Association, I spent time in several with foreign ministers and most notably, the president of Taiwan.

Having to make a presentation to him without warning, I blame Allen Beerman for that. Allen is another story, for another day, all by himself.

And over all that time and travel, we met so many people, and made so many friends. None better, or more interesting, I have to say, than the ones we have here.

Then the adventures: I recall hiking up to watch an Army team recover a Pershing missile lost in the wilderness for something like 20 years, and flying one bitterly cold morning with the game warden and a crazed helicopter pilot to count the elk. You had to fly low to chase them out of the trees, you see. Then there was doing runway traction checks with the airport police when it snowed in Kansas City.

Cynthia got to wrestle mountain sheep one day – few people can say that – and she got to drive some of the first GM vehicles equipped with experimental antilock brakes on glare ice – just jam on the brake, the guy told her.

The people in our business we met, the friends we made, including Bill Snead of the Lawrence Journal-World, the Washington Post, one of the great news photographers and one of the nicest men you’d ever meet. Rick Atkinson, now a famous historian, but a star even when we worked together on the staff in Kansas City.

And there was the day I got to interview, after what seemed like weeks of negotiation with his wife, Thomas Hart Benton, the Kansas City painter. I had an hour with him in his studio, wrote three pages and wound up with two paragraphs in Newsweek. But what an hour.

All that is mostly behind us now, I suspect. What’s to come should be just as interesting and just as much fun.

My Uncle Will had a pretty good career as an editor in Emporia. He figured out how to build a national brand in a day when magazine writers were as famous as television anchors in the 20th century. We never aspired to such heights, but in our own way, got at least a peek at the summit.

I hope we will be remembered as good stewards of your newspaper, and as good people who worked to do the right thing.

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