Thursday, March 4, 2010

Columbia needs a newspaper

As I said in one of my final columns that appeared in the Columbia Register, that it was something I started to right about a year ago and stopped and then wrote it again. This is also something I started to write, stopped, finished it, gave it out to a few people who were interested and something that had been followed, perhaps not to the “T,” our great town might still have a newspaper.

Let me start my saying, the last two newspapers in our town failed – the Columbia Ledger and the Columbia Register, both failed for different reasons in my opinion. The third I worked for the Columbia News failed for another reason. So I will talk about all three, their affects on our town and why the worked and didn’t work.

I can honestly say this, outside of a few weeks last year when the Columbia Ledger was in limbo, I really enjoyed going to work each day. I can say after a few weeks of working for the newspaper that wasn’t the case. I saw early on that the revival of a newspaper for Columbia wasn’t going to work. But more on that later.

I started to work at the Columbia News in 1984 and found it a joy to work in my hometown. I took what I learned from my eight or so years at WSBA from the likes of Ed Wickenheiser, Ron Corbin and the late Phil Eberly into that job and still take that professionalism with me today.

What I found out early on was how important the hometown paper was to the people of Columbia. It had it all – history, told you who was coming into this town in terms of births and who was leaving us in terms of deaths. Started to learn the newspaper business and found it a career I would like.

Continued to learn more from the likes of “Teedy” Aston and the Crist family, who were really interested in a community newspaper. Its also where I learned computers.

Then there was the late Shirley Myers, who had the knack of being able to be nice to people, yet knew who you didn’t want to see or talk too and that was nice.

But the Columbia News started changing when the Crist family decided to retire and sold the business if I remember first to a newspaper from Johnstown, who then sold it to a group that owned the York Newspapers. I can remember one marketing guy they had come in to talk about things telling me I didn’t know sports or Columbia. Hell, he wasn’t from the Columbia area.

The change was not good. The Crists were booted out the door and “Teedy” road down the road to retirement.

The three editors, I think there were three, that replaced “Teedy” had some good ideas, but basically didn’t know Columbia. But like today, when the big guys come in, the little guys got pushed aside and it wasn’t long before they came in one day, said that was it. No chance to turn it possibly into a weekly paper.

Next came the Ledger Newspaper group out of Quarryville. They had their papers printed at the Columbia News until they cut out that part of the process.

Fran Maye was my first contact and Don Althouse was the owner. Spent about a month working full-time as a correspondent. It was a pretty good experience, but the pay was less than I was making at the Columbia News.

They had some good ideas, but because they were located out of Quarryville, it didn’t give off a good first impression.

But they too started to change things. Althouse sold the business, but kept a hand in things and was visible in Columbia every week, which I thought was good.

When he sold the business, there was a bunch of people brought in and they weren’t around long. There were also three or four more owners, going from a small group to a couple of larger groups such as its final owners, the Daily Local News/Journal Register Company.

The one good thing that over the 20 or so years, they left us a lone in Columbia. If we needed to get out of the office for while, we did. But they brought in some people that didn’t fit Columbia and I decided I had enough.

One day back in 1999 I think it was, I got a call from the Elizabethtown Chronicle, wanting to know if I was interested in becoming their sports editor in Elizabethtown an Hershey. Much better money than I was making now, so after much thought I took it. Low and behold after a few months there, the same group (Journal Register) purchased those two papers and I asked to get shifted back to Columbia.

After a while I was able to make the decisions as what got went into the newspaper and thought we really had a good product. I think myself and my tag team partner for most of the years, if not all of them, Terry Hougendobler had a pretty good idea of what Columbia wanted also, but it was getting old trying to find things.

But as with the old Columbia News, the bigger company wasn’t interested in the small fry and put the paper up for sale. Folks, you don’t know how close it came to the paper closing before it did.

There was also a sale that fell through.

It was during that time about a year ago, I started to put together a plan for a newspaper in Columbia. What could work, what might work, etc., etc.

I shared it with a few people and they liked it. Shared it with a few potential buyers and not saying it was gospel, but it was a pretty good plan.

After a few months, On-Line Publishers came into the picture and I shared the plan with them.

Well, they decided to move forward, but had another plan and after a few weeks or within the first month, I could see it wasn’t going to work. I was the editor and had no say in anything.

Then I had my accident and it just got worse.

I still think Columbia deserves and needs a newspaper. There are so many things that have been missed, not covered and the list that goes on and on. I am willing to talk with anyone about what I think will make a successful newspaper in Columbia at anytime. I think I might have a better idea than other people since I’ve been doing it half my life.

But what I feel bad for are the kids who aren’t getting their pictures in the newspaper any longer, the sports news that hasn’t been covered right for more than a year and the small town events that mad our town unique that no longer get exposed.

Yes, it has been fun and I think it will work again, but since my accident and the recent experience I had, I don’t know if I want to do through the wars again, but then again, if it is done the right way, it would be something to consider.

For now, my thirst to write and make sure things get covered are limited to this blog. So if you have anything, send it to me and I will publish it. And if you really want to know my feelings on certain aspects of this column, hit me up sometime.

Just like being in charge of something in our small town, you have to have a pretty unique outlook on things and really care about our town. That’s something I’ve done over the years, that others I’ve worked with or the powers to be didn’t understand.

Wrestlers at Regionals

The final step in the “Road to Hershey” begins tomorrow night at Wilson High School in Berks County when Columbia wrestlers Joey Ronca and Jake Sentz participate in the Class AA South Central Regional Tournament.

The two-day event runs through Saturday and those who place in the top five at their respective weight class qualify for the PIAA championships, which begin next Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Sentz, wrestling at 285, brings a 27-16 record into his first round match against Dylan Evans of Springfield Township in District 1. He is 25-8. Evans placed third at the District 1 championships.

Ronca, a fourth place finisher at last week’s District Three championships, is 36-8 and will wrestle Anthony Farole (23-13) of Leighton in the first round. Farole is a sophomore. Leighton is from District 11.

More predictions

Girls 3-A scores: West York over Oley Valley, 52-42 and Trinity over Palmyra, 56-28.
Finals are Saturday at 11:15 a.m. Take Trinity in finals and Palmyra in consolation game.
Boys 2-A: Trinity over Hanover, 62-38 and Lancaster Mennonite over Delone Catholic, 68-53.
Finals are Friday atn 6:45 p.m.