It is hard to believe that 34 years ago this week I was being interviewed by Terry Forcht to be the publisher of the Whitley Republican. I had been the advertising director at the London Sentinel-Echo the past seven years, but when Al Smith, the owner, sold the newspaper to the Park Group of Ithaca, NY, I was eager to leave. As is the custom with chain owned newspapers, the group wanted to make changes to what was a very successful newspaper. That didn’t set well with me.
In 1980, Smith offered me the job at the Sentinel. At first, I turned him down because I had never worked at a weekly and I didn’t know just how effective a weekly newspaper could be. A month later he called me again and made me an offer I couldn’t resist. It wasn’t the money, but the most important thing I accomplished was the experience of working at a weekly newspaper.
With that background I was ready to work for Mr. Forcht when the opportunity came. The plan was to start a companion newspaper to the Whitley Republican in Corbin. We would call it Corbin! This Week, playing on the new USA Today newspaper name that was a huge success nationwide. What neither of us knew at that time was no weekly newspaper had ever survived in Corbin against the daily newspaper competition there. I found that out years later when the late publisher of the Barbourville Advocate, Cecil Wilson, told me 11 others had tried and no one had succeeded.
It was 1987 and the new Mac Plus computers had just arrived on the publishing scene. I had seen a demonstration of one of them and I told Mr. Forcht what the possibilities were with them. He agreed to supply us with the latest equipment. With that I gave my notice to the Sentinel.
And now if I may refer to him as Terry, he gave me a book to read written by Al Neuharth who was the founder of USA Today. My excitement was reaching a peak as I read the book and I wanted to start a weekly that looked similar to USA Today.
After returning from a week’s vacation between jobs, I started adding to the staff of the Whitley Republican and we opened an office in Corbin. Thus, we became the first weekly in the state to have offices in two towns.
The first person I hired was Linda Carpenter. I hired her as a salesperson but seeing how desperate we were to adapt to the new computers, on her own she taught herself how to operate them. It wasn’t long before her skills were the best of anybody and she became our layout and advertising ad designer. After 34 years she is still here and still the best!
The first publication of Corbin! This Week was set for August, but first we had to learn how to use the new Mac Plus computers.
It was my first Whitley Republican publication as publisher and I had no knowledge of how to operate the new equipment but others on our staff had some limited background.
It was late at night and my anxiety level was reaching a peak when I heard one person say, “We can’t get this printer to print.” It was about 3 a.m. I looked out my office window on South 2nd. Street in Williamsburg and said to myself, ”What have I done,” referring to taking a job that came with many more demands than a Whitley Republican staff had ever had.
Later we called the person who sold us the computers and he guided the staff on how to make the printer print. The staff pulled it together and got the paper out on time.
I was 48 years old and had three daughters in school and failure was not an option for me. I had to make this work. It has and I owe that success to a great staff that helped us become the largest weekly in the state but it didn’t come easily.
We had about ten weeks before we would start publishing two editions of the newspaper, one for Williamsburg and one for Corbin. That is when we really got tested.
As I review my 34 years here, next week I tell about the bold step we made that changed everything.