Not too many businesses — media or otherwise — throw open their doors and tell their customers, “Come visit us. Meet our employees, and see where they work. Learn about our business, enjoy some food, help yourself to some freebies and register for a new TV and some other swell prizes.”
But a community newspaper in general, and Bill and Linda Tubbs’ North Scott Press in particular, is not your average business. And that’s why Friday’s open house at the NSP office was special.
A community paper is especially close to its readers. As best it can, and despite the ever-approaching next deadline, it documents their lives. In print it celebrates their joys, and it mourns their tragedies. And it covers lots of events in-between.
Reporters, editors, columnists and publishers can’t wait to share positive stories about topics like a good deed done, a sports team’s come-from-behind victory or the opening of a new business in town. They’re also obligated, of course, to report the not-so-happy news. I remember shedding tears as I wrote about the untimely death of a close friend. And I know I’m not the only writer who has had that experience.
The Press welcomed scores of readers and advertisers to Friday’s open house so they could help celebrate a momentous occasion, the paper’s 40th anniversary — 40 great years of weekly papers chock full of stories and photographs about those who live and work in Scott County.
When I stopped in at the open house, every room in the place was full of people looking around while nibbling on snacks and socializing.
One of the hot spots was the table in the conference room, where folks were elbow to elbow going through boxes full of free-for-the-taking black-and-white photographs from decades-old past issues.
One smiling man waved around his prize photo find, a mug shot of Bill with a full head of black hair and one very chubby cheek, thanks to complications from a wisdom tooth extraction. Some of us would have paid money for that picture.
A few dedicated NSP staffers actually thought they might get some work done during the all-day open house. Fat chance! One of them was Tracy Dunn, who while trying to carry on a phone conversation held the phone receiver to her ear with one hand and covered the other ear with the other hand in an attempt to block out at least some of the open house chatter and clatter.
The NSP facility was spic and span for the affair.
And there had been some changes since I’d last stopped in. The paper is totally created in computers now, desktop publishing style. So the former composing room had been cleared out and converted to much-needed additional office. In addition, the former dark room, which had gone the way of the dinosaur with the advent of digital cameras, had been turned into a giant storage closet.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the highlights of the open house for me was seeing the wooden surfaces of Bill and Scott’s desks. I hadn’t seen them in years.
Normally they’re covered with the trademarks of a busy guy working on deadline: hastily scribbled reminders, news releases, phone messages, printed e-mails, photographs, reporters’ notebooks, digital cameras, trade magazines, empty coffee cups or pop cans and who knows what else.
I’m sure I’ll see those wooden desktops again — at the 50th anniversary open house of The North Scott Press.
Copyright Nov. 19, 2008. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.