With apologies to Lewis Carroll …
The time has come to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and … mergers, reorganizations, centralization and reductions in force, etc. The merger of Gatehouse Media with Gannett earlier this year has led to many changes. I should be celebrating the start of my 43rd year with The Oak Ridger; instead I am cleaning out my office as I prepare to take a reduction in force on Oct. 1.
I began my career in the business office as the accounts receivable clerk, and then I was promoted to what in those days was called a full charge bookkeeper. Then, I finally moved to Business Manager, and with the recent merger of Gatehouse and Gannett, I was named team lead for the newspaper.
I have had the distinct pleasure of working for six different publishers. Each left their mark on the paper and helped shape us into what we are today. I will miss this place and all of the hard working individuals who continue to mold and shape the Ridger.
A newspaper is the only product I know of that is built from scratch every day. It takes a team to make that happen and a lot of wonderful people have passed through these doors over the years to make that happen.
The Oak Ridger has appeared on a lot of resumes as a first job. Every summer we hired several students to work in different departments, many of them returned year after year on what we jokingly called the Tom Hill scholarship program. Tom, who died last year, was the publisher at that time. If you wanted to work, Tom would find you a job. I bet a lot of you reading this were paper carriers in the past. Our carriers were a vital part of the team. Doesn’t matter how good the story is or how attractive the ad, if no one can read it.
I take with me a lot of fond memories, like knowing when the press was up and running at our original location on Tyrone Road because the windows would rattle and the floor would vibrate. Or cold days in the winter when the newsroom was so cold the reporters would hang blankets over the windows. Or the time this newly relocated Yankee questioned why no one seemed to be able to drive on a little ice and snow. Buddy Jones and Bill Noe spent the day carrying cups of water outside to encase my tires in blocks of ice. I drove off with a smirk on my face and a wave out the car window.
Then we moved to our next location at 785 on the Turnpike. The Monday morning after the move, the loading bay looked like we had experienced one heck of a party. I think we had used every available liquor box in town to move stuff. No longer were we squeezed in a large open area, but separated into actual departments. We lost a lot of camaraderie, but we had the newest in equipment, and the floors no longer vibrated when the press kicked in. In the old building most visitors were directed to the last desk on the right where Ellen “Bootie” Woodside held court over community news. In the new building you had to traverse two hallways to reach her inner sanctum. Bootie was one of a kind and missed to this day by us oldtimers.
Now we have settled into a smaller office further down the Turnpike (575). Our printing is done at a sister Gannett paper, the Knoxville News Sentinel. They also handle our home delivery so our space requirement was greatly reduced. With even newer equipment and more shared resources provided by Gannett, the small staff continues to provide the best news coverage available. I could not leave without giving thanks to those six dedicated people that I leave behind: Debbie Davis, our cashier and circulation clerk; Andrea Klink, our accounts receivable and customer service clerk; Carmen Roberts, our graphic designer and occasional sports guru and tech; Wanda Reagan, our multimedia salesperson; Ben Pounds, our sole reporter; and Donna Smith, our news editor who determines content, story placement and a host of other chores. They’re six great folks who you can count on to bring you the best paper everyday.
A community newspaper is the heart and soul of a town like Oak Ridge. We strive to bring you the facts you need to make informed decisions. We share the good news, the uncomfortable and the sad without an agenda. I encourage every one of you to continue to support your hometown paper with your subscriptions and readership. (Did you know that a year’s subscription works out to 63 cents a day? That is less than the cost of just the blank newsprint (paper) in a single copy of the newspaper.) And a word to our supportive local business partners, we couldn’t do any of this without your continued support. We hope every ad placed with us is a win-win situation as we help you get customers through the door, or these days, on the phone or online. Buying local starts with letting folks know what you have to offer them right here in Oak Ridge.
Well the time has come to say my goodbyes to my extended family; I will miss each and every one of you and wish you all the best, both personally and professionally. I still expect to be kept in the loop on marriages, graduations and new grandchildren!
That’s a 30.
Carol Skyberg is a longtime Oak Ridge resident, as well as a devoted and faithful employee of The Oak Ridger. She will be greatly missed.
This article originally appeared on Oakridger: Newspaper’s longtime business manager says goodbye