By DAVID PRATER
It was just over 17 years ago I inked a deal to purchase the Independent and as this year ends it will be my last as owner and publisher of the 96-year-old weekly that repots the happenings of all things Salyersville.
When this endeavor started I had no idea what I was in for, never even having worked in a newspaper, but looking back with all the ups and downs I’ve enjoyed it all on the whole and it will certainly be missed.
At the time of purchase the paper was all but actually bankrupt with one working computer, a phone that could only receive incoming calls because of a $4,000 plus past due account with the phone company, the local bank trying to foreclose on it and but for its inability to get a notice published in the paper of local record (if that isn’t irony) as required by law they would have, and if all that wasn’t enough an unpaid account to E & C Web Printing in London of over $70,000. As a side note William and Brenda Evens owners of E&C, now retired, are two of the nicest people you have ever met.
Fast forward nearly two decades later and in many ways it’s a completely transformed operation. A solid group of employees that get to press timely each Wednesday afternoon, without the all night Tuesday night. Composition and getting to the press is done in electronic fashion now, all the while operating in the black.
All of these things are accomplished each week with such regularity, to the point that for it not to be would be out of the ordinary.
None of the above would happen without the folks who devote themselves to the task each week. Without a doubt after all the years this is collectively the best group of people to work with that have been here during my tenure, and no doubt this group is what I will miss the most. At times it seemed the paper was a merry go round for job seekers but the current cast are all well-seasoned with much talent, ability and professionalism.
And if after all these years and all the those that have come and gone if I had to pick a favorite it would one of the current crew that has affectionately become known to the staff and the regulars who visit as “Jo Jo”. It’s at times like this I wish I was more of a word smith because I don’t possess the necessary to articulate my fondness and respect for Jo Harvey. Of all the people I’ve worked with and for all through the years she tops the list. This admiration is in no way a slight to others but rather a recognition of the bond that’s been developed and I hope will last going forward. As a side note, Jo received her nick name from the unofficial office mascot Bentley Smith, who has been in and out of this office as many times as she has her own home during her life and if you don’t know Bentley get within ear shot of her, plant yourself and hang on. She’s a seven year going on seventeen year old with absolutely no filter, so whatever is on her mind will soon be crossing her lips.
In some ways seventeen years seems so long ago now I don’t recall what my expectations were, if any, of this endeavor as a barely thirty year old with no industry experience other than we made it to press as close to on time as we could with as few as mistakes as possible. Later on I did want to expand by purchasing other publications but the right opportunity never seem to present itself for that.
It can be said in retrospect that I hope this publication has made some positive impact on someone or something or at a minimum has been an outlet for someone to take a break from the world for a few minutes while they’ve pursed its pages.
The list of people to thank for their patronage and support through the years would be voluminous and even at my best would no doubt be incomplete but I would like to say thanks to one person who I had many discussions with through the years with about things that were going to or had already hit the pages of this publication. Jim Reed, my childhood neighbor and lifelong extended family member was always supportive of my endeavor here and I always appreciated our conversations and his feedback.
It would also be appropriate to wish the new owner the best of luck and continued success. He certainly has mountains more experience in the news arena than I did when I took the reins here and having known him since childhood I believe that experience coupled with a solid staff will find him on better footing than I was in the beginning. After all Ritt Mortimer has been delivering the news right into your living room since two years before I bought the Independent.
Looking back I will try to think of my time here as it relates to a quote I read for the first time only a couple of years ago on the door of a neighborhood bar that had closed after several decades on the corner of Spring and Thompson in New York.. “ Don’t be sad because it’s over but smile because it happened”…