The newspaper is constantly evolving

I sometimes wonder what exactly is my job. My father used to say that anything that happens or doesn’t happen is the responsibility of the publisher.
Those words have given me pause to think about the paper and its various divisions.
My father, who began his career when he was 14 years old, learned to operate a linotype and all the presses that operated at the Fort Frances Times. In those days while you might be a linotype operator, you also were its mechanic.
If you were a pressman, you also were the mechanic on the press.
My father also was a writer and a sales person. There really wasn’t a job in the business that he didn’t know how to do.
So it wasn’t surprising to see him doing everything from shovelling snow to patching roofs, to painting, to installing equipment. Those were his jobs and they were his loves. The standing joke was that if he couldn’t find an extra screw after he had fixed something, it wasn’t going to work.
However, once the industry adopted computers, he chose not to learn how to operate the equipment.
The first generation of machines mimicked the previous mechanical methods of putting out a paper. After that generation, although he may have understood the concepts of the computers and software, he chose to only use a simple word program to write his column.
Financial statements were prepared monthly and printed out. But always he was looking at making the paper better, by finding people with new skills, by incorporating new ways of producing the paper and by using the latest in equipment.
The newsroom grew, the advertising department grew, and the capacity of the newspapers grew.
Much has changed. Very little of what we do now even sees paper until it rolls off the press. And the job of the publisher continues to evolve. Many of the responsibilities that my father had have been split between Don, Linda, and myself.
Don has my father’s natural inclination to know how things work. And tinkering on a press—regardless of size—is something he enjoys. When we installed a large guillotine last summer, and the extra units on the press the year before, Don was up to his elbows with the erectors and press installers in putting everything together.
This past fall, a new plate burner was installed. It was a used machine with very little time on it. The burner came out of Transcontinental printing in Winnipeg. But during shipping, a cable had broken, and Don led our crew in fixing and installing the machine.
As I said, he has that intuition on how to make things work. He has taken over that job of my father.
Linda likes to work numbers, and she is essential to making the office, accounts receivable, and accounts payable operate. She has learned the software of all those computer programs as well as software for payroll.
She spends much of her day on the computer doing various jobs. She’ll tell you that she has trained many a person on the telephone help desk at a number of software companies.
With a change in staff, and a change in years, she is finding herself up to her neck in challenges as she trains new people on jobs.
Getting back to the job of the publisher. As much as I would like to say that the job hasn’t changed, it has. The Times, through its publications, constantly is trying to improve its products.
Over time, for instance, we have moved to more digital photographs (though there are still occasions when film produces a better picture and we use traditional 35 mm cameras for that).
In the mid-1990s, we began publishing a small version of the paper electronically. Our Electronic Publishing department has grown and regularly wins national and provincial awards for the online edition of the Fort Frances Times, Daily Bulletin, and Rainy River Record.
The people in the department are very talented.
It seems more time is spent hiring the right people. We seem to be hiring a lot of reporters. I wish it weren’t the case. However, as I spoke with a former colleague who now teaches journalism at one of Ontario’s community colleges, he asked, “What are the jobs they are going to?”
As I answered the question, it struck me that one of our jobs is that of training people to discover their love of the industry and then to take on new and larger challenges in the industry.
We will lose sports reporter Joey Payeur this week as he follows his dream of moving to a larger centre with a much larger daily paper. He will join one of Canada’s major newspaper chains.
We constantly look at our three newspapers and try to examine what we can do to make them better. The Times increased the size of its press to enable the newspaper to print colour pictures.
We also have added a special features writer for our special supplements. Beth Caldwell has written 13 interesting bridal features that began last week, and I am sure you will enjoy them.
At the Rainy River Record, we have added a craft column and a weekly crossword puzzle. Editor Ken Johnston has begun a local recipe column, as well.
In 2003, the Fort Frances Times and Rainy River Record participated in the Combase readership study, which provided insight on how we might be able to improve our papers.
Annually, the Fort Frances Times and Rainy River Record compete for both provincial and national awards.
We received notice Monday that our newspapers are in the final three for two provincial awards. We will learn of our fate the first weekend in March.
The awards are another measuring stick for our newspapers. From the awards, we also will pick up ideas on how to make improvements.
We also look for feedback from our readers. If you have ideas on how we can make improvements, please let us know. You can contact me either by phone (274-5373) or by e-mail at jcumming@fortfrances.com

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