(This is an expanded (uncut) version of the first person
article I wrote for the 140th anniversary section of the Chronicle
Saturday, which ran on page 34 of that paper. They had space
limitations and I always seem to go over the number of words
wanted. They did not load that section on their website so it
could not be found anywhere other than on paper. Be forewarned,
this is rather lengthy and many be boring.
In late November I was invited to recollect the highlights
from my time as editor of the Daily Chronicle from the Spring
of 1969 to the Fall of 1972. It is with pleasure that I share
some of those memories with readers some of whom have remained
loyal subscribers the since that time.
For my part, it all began in early 1969 when I saw an advertisement
looking for an editor at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. At the time
I was editor of a suburban daily in Livermore, CA, having moved
there from Genoa where I had owned the Genoa Republican, DeKalb
County (Kirkland) Journal and also had started a new weekly The
Sycamore Sun. In 1966 they were bought by DeKalb County Press,
a corporation headed by Attorney John Castle.
After submitting my resume to the new owners of the Chronicle,
the Scripps-Hagadone chain of papers, I received a phone call
from Chronicle publisher John McGaugh who had been named to his
position just three months before. Being a native of Montana
and not knowing anything about Illinois or Dekalb County, he
said they were looking for a local person who had a background
Barry in 1969 at age 28 at my Livermore, CA newspaper
office just before moving back to Illinois. If you look closely
you can see I had a manual typewriter, a dial telephone and even
a pipe. I could never keep the pipe lit so gave it up when returning
to DeKalb.Front Page
I was interviewed a month later and convinced him I was perfect
for the job. I had been born on a dairy farm south of Waterman,
attended grade schools in Somonauk, Waterman and Sycamore, then
junior high through high school at Genoa-Kingston, plus graduated
from NIU. My family went back five generations in the county,
my wife Kay was a Wirsing from Sycamore and had deep roots in
the farming community.
So I was hired and moved back to DeKalb in April 1969.
When I walked in, I found the editor's office empty as the former
editor (along with co-owners Chuck and Eddie Raymond) Bob Greenaway
had cleaned out his desk the weekend before. But the new publisher
said I would not get that office, but rather work in the newsroom
with the other staff to be more pat of the team. That was fine
with me, so we used the old office as a conference and interview
My early months on the job were just getting acquainted with
the staff and other departments in the newspaper's plant on East
Locust and 8th Streets, the the public including elected officials
and those who managed the city and held county offices. I had
the advantage of knowing many of those people around the area
when I was growing up and later when I was at NIU and later had
I want to mention some of the staff names in case anyone
remembers that far back who worked there. Managing editor at
first was Roland "Wally" Wallace, later Jeff Hartenfeld
filled that position. Initially the sports editor was Arvid Koontz,
then later Stan Shalett. Phyllis Mackall was Women's section
editor, later renamed the Family section.Photographer was Chuck
Richardson at first, then John Patsch and Pat Callahan. A good
friend from the Loves Park weekly, Fred Senters joined the staff
as managing editor and Barrie French, a former colleague of mine
at the San Bernardino (CA) Sun, joined us as well. Others included
Al Hagopian and Nick Pintozzi, and several more I don't have
room to name.
I convinced McGaugh that we ought to form a Community Press
council, something that was originated in Minnesota a few years
earlier and was intended to seek input from a broad range of
citizens. He was reluctant because he was concerned that the
citizens' group might think they would set policy or influence
our editorial decisions. I assured him it would be structured
as an informational exchange to better acquaint him with people
around the county. We included a minister, attorney, school administrator,
NIU faculty member, farmer, business person, and others to meet
over breakfast once a month and discuss local issues and answer
questions about how a newspaper is run. It proved to be a successful
community outreach effort and I relied on some of their advice
in the years ahead, even though the group only met formally for
about six months.
Another part of the newspaper which had been a mainstay
of local news for decades was a large number of "country
correspondents," mainly women who did not work outside the
home but had a knowledge of their neighborhoods, social and school
activities and the skill to write about it. They were organized
by our County News Editor Ina Glover and at one time included
26 women. They were paid the paltry sum of 25 cents a published
inch so Ina had to measure the number of column inches each one
produced in a a month and issue checks for those small amounts,
some less than $10.
Readers liked the idea of having local news from each part
the county, even though it was mostly social, school-connected
or club activities. Correspondents often submitted lengthy accounts
of weddings, anniversaries and other social events which built
up their inches in the measured columns and told us who handled
the gifts, what color dresses were worn by attendants and bridal
couple's mothers, what kind of corsages, color scheme, and even
who came from "out of town" for weddings and anniversary
I embraced the "chicken dinner" news items as
they were called, but our publisher wanted to reduce the number
of "stringers" so that slowly went away. I must mention
that each holiday season we bought turkeys from the HO-KA turkey
farm and I offered to deliver the frozen birds around the county.
It was a chance for me to meet our stringers and find out more
about them. I remember some of them still today-Fern Worden from
Kirkland, Win Bradford from Kingston, Mrs. B.P. Stroberg from
Genoa, Sada Lillia and Martha McCabe from Sycamore, Sara Mendez
and Erdine Gletty from Waterman, plus several more whose names
I can't recall. My old G-K school chum Eddie Carter knows them,
since he owned the Hinckley Review and dealt with many of the
same people who sometimes wrote for the Chronicle plus their
After meeting these women I decided we could give them
some advice on news writing so held two "teas" or seminars
for them with Ina organizing the events. They were't very instructive
but you should have heard the exchanges of juicy tidbits from
all corners of the county. I wish I could have recorded those
conversations for posterity.
One drawback for Ina was that only two or three of them
could type, so she had to take piles of handwritten pages submitted
by courier or mail and type them for our Linotype operators (who
operated metal typesetting machines that created the justified
columns which were assembled and locked into page forms to be
placed in the letterpress for printing each day's paper). I especially
remember two Linotype men, Jimmy Jarvis and Jay Elliott who could
set type faster than anyone around, yet took the time to ask
about an unusual name or possible error that they might spot
from years of setting all that local news with familiar names.
We also had the luxury of proofreaders. The person I remember
most is Eileen "Tessie" Tessier who was an encyclopedia
of knowledge and an expert in English and its proper usage. She
"saved our bacon" more than once by catching an error
before it got into print which could have embarrassed us or maybe
even resulted in a lawsuit. But I didinstitute a "corrections"
column on page 2 which still exists to this day.
This brings up the subject of the "backshop,"
which meant all the men working in the composing room and pressroom.
I enjoyed going there since I learned a lot about printing when
I owned my weeklies. They were a congenial bunch and I can remember
names like Don Merwin, Gene George, Warren Larson, Doc Telford,
Quentin McDowell, Tom Engstrom, and a young Vietnam veteran David
Hegberg, my wife's first cousin who had just returned from military
service. There are a dozen more whose names I can't recall. They
had been setting the type, assembling the pages and printing
the newspaper for many years, but that would all end in one fell
The Scripps-Hagadone organization had a record of converting
the old letterpress printing plants into more modern offset-printed
operations which produced much higher quality papers with sharper
photos, more color with faster press times. But the downside
was the new method required very few "backshop" employees,
also an attractive feature that would cut labor costs tremendously.
When the Chronicle moved from the Locust Street plant its
new state-of-the-art printing plant and offices on Barber Greene
Road in the Spring of 1971, some 20 employees were laid off-nearly
all the backshop. They had been misled into thinking they would
be retrained to compose and print at the new offset plant, but
in truth it was not the case. The new production department only
required a handful of people (mostly women who were paid about
half of what the experienced printers had earned) using compositor
machines with typewriter keyboards which were completely different
than the keyboard layout on the old Linotypes. So it was a sad
time for me to see good loyal workers in the production laid
off. They did keep most of the pressroom crew, retraining them.
Meanwhile, I was overwhelmed with the move and learning
all the new techniques of producing a completely redesigned Chronicle
by the offset method. When I arrived two years earlier we were
still using manual typewriters and in that short period of time
went to the precursors of computers.
At the time of the move, we redesigned the paper with a
new look, different headline types and reduced from a nine-column
page to six wider columns. At the same time the publisher decided
we should shorten the name of the paper, from DeKalb Daily Chronicle
to just Daily Chronicle. I opposed that since I thought the generic
name did not identify our circulation area, so wanted the name
DeKalb County Chronicle. But I did not prevail. Our new slick-looking
product with new typefaces and layout did not please many of
our longtime subscribers, so we were forced to rethink part of
our "modernized look" and compromise with less changes
As editor it was my role to hire staff, assign beats, monitor
the output and orient new reporters on their beats. I also wrote
editorials, had a weekly column called "Barbed Wires"
was active in community organizations like Kiwanis, Chambers
of Commerce, and charitable organizations, while having to deal
with budget issues which the chain owners seemed to want trimmed
My one saving grace was the fact there was a competing
newspaper, the group I used to be a part of, DeKalb County Press,
Inc.owned by John Castle. They decided to merge all their weeklies
into a daily product the DeKalb County Journal, a morning tabloid-sized
paper which went head-to-head with us. They hired former WLBK
station manager Ralph Sherman as publisher and a former NIU classmate
of mine, Jerry Smith, as editor. That resulted in some lively
competition as we battled for readership and getting "breaking
news" into print before the competition.
They had the same breed of young writers fresh out of NIU,
and as much editorial staff as us. I had hired some of the best
graduates from the campus paper The Northern Star, to join our
staff and was pleased with how they jumped into the fray and
did some excellent reporting.
Probably my two best hires were Ray Gibson as city editor
who eventually became one of the top investigative reporters
for the Chicago Tribune, and Don Duncan. Don was a retired DeKalb
Ag executive, knew everything about agriculture and many of the
farmers in the county. We added a farm section and Don edited
it. He worked from his home but produced a fine section and even
had his own column "Around the County" which was enjoyed
by many of our readers, probably better read than mine.
Speaking of columns, the Journal publisher Ralph Sherman
wrote a column called "People" which featured as many
names as he could crowd into it each week. I always envied his
ability to weave all those names into a column and since that
time have strived to do the same.
Since I am on the subject of the competing newspaper, its
editor Jerry Smith and I were fellow staffers on the campus paper
while at NIU so it was ironic we were on opposite teams. We both
tried our best at scooping each other and I even kept score in
our newsroom. But eventually Castle decided to sell the Journal
to the Chronicle owners and concentrate instead on their printing
and magazine publishing business. I felt sorry for their young
staffers, as the Chronicle did not hire any of them so they faced
uncertain futures. But Jerry and I have renewed our friendship
since my return to DeKalb 11 years ago and now enjoy reminiscing
about the "good old days," claiming each one of us
had the superior product. He has been known to call me a "muckraker"
and a campus radical. I am sure it is just in jest
collaborated on the media chapter in the recent county history
"Acres of Change" and managed to agree on equal coverage
for each of our former papers.
My most exciting front page was the one heralding the first
moon landing. We found some big wood type and filled half the
page with MAN STEPS ONTO MOON. I still see copies of that paper
being saved as a collectible. It is attached here.
Looking back, I think the biggest local story during my
tenure was the NIU student riots in the wake of the Kent State
shootings. I, along with several of our news staff, stood behind
the police lines as the students marched to the west edge of
the Kishwaukee River bridge on Lincoln Highway. The police line
held. The students threw some objects, but no tear gas was used.
This was after a night of business district vandalism and destruction
of vehicles, window smashing and small fires in the campus area.
The giant wood type I used to mark the Moon Landing.Major Headlines
The Scripps-Hagadone papers were discouraged from endorsing
candidates as the ownership felt it was bad for advertising;
the candidates you didn't endorse wouldn't buy ads. I chafed
at this policy and when Ray Robinson succeed McGaugh as publisher
I was able to do some endorsing. We were known as the Republican-leaning
paper since the Greenaway and Raymond families had owned it.
In fact, Bob Greenaway even got appointed to the Illinois Tollway
Authority board by Gov. Richard Ogilvie after he sold the paper.
Earlier he had served as an Alternate Delegate to the GOP convention
in San Francisco where they chose Barry Goldwater. So it was
expected that we would back the incumbent Republicans from the
courthouse to the statehouse. We support the aging Sen. Dennis
Collins when he was challenged by former Mayor Joe Ebbesen, while
the Journal did the opposite. BTW, Collins' son, the dentist,
told me recently that his father's proudest accomplishment in
his last term was getting the state to create Shabbona lake and
But I did manage to stray into the Democratic camp by endorsing
Jeff Strack for State Constitutional Convention delegate.We also
supported a Republican Stan Johson, who won.
I also encouraged the firebrand Democratic County Chair
Martin David Dubin to write more letters to the editor, something
my predecessors would never have done. Dubin was tickled by our
new letters policy, as was the controversial attorney Paul Nehring
Jr. who was another letter writer and irritant to many city and
county officials locally. When I returned here several years
later on a visit, Dubin located me and claimed he had some backers
who would finance a newspaper to compete with the Chronicle if
I would come back as its editor. I suspect he was just "blowing
smoke." His widow Eileen Dubin became a good friend when
we returned to DeKalb and we still keep in regular contact since
she moved away to California.
Getting back to the selection of Ray Robinson as the next
publisher of the Chronicle in early 1972, it really irked me.
Scripps-Hagadone management always told editors they could work
their way up to publisher by learning the ropes in other areas
of running newspapers and we spent a week very year at a seminar
on management at the chain's headquarters in Coeur d' Alene,
Idaho. We met in the palatial "playboy-like" mansion
of the chain's CEO Duane Hagadone. He had an indoor bowling alley,
two indoor tennis courts, impressive bar with bartender, even
a pipe, a monogrammed smoking jacket and a girlfriend named Candy.
When McGaugh told me they were naming Robinson, the advertising
manager for the Chronicle, as the new publisher, I was dismayed
to say the least. I thought I was ready to fill that role since
I had once been publisher of three weeklies. However, Robinson
had a better business background, plus he belonged to the Kishwaukee
Country Club, played golf with the movers and shakers in the
county, and belonged to the DeKalb Rotary Club, which apparently
outranked me as a member of the Kiwanis Club. (Of course that
is no longer the case, I must hasten to explain.)
But in retrospect I would not have been a good choice.
I was too committed to the editorial side of newspapering and
would not have been able to make the tough business decisions
to keep the paper raking in the big profits it did in those days.
Another department head from the business side, Circulation Manager
Roger Warkins, was also chosen as publisher at a later time.
But on the bright side, former Chronicle editor Eric Olson is
now the General Manger and dealing with the business side as
much as the editorial product. (He is coincidentally also a member
of the same DeKalb Rotary Club.)
So after that setback in climbing the career ladder, I
began looking around for new opportunities. Seven months later
I was contacted by Dean Lesher, a publisher in the San Francisco
Bay Area, about becoming editor of a new East Bay daily in Alameda
and Contra Cost counties. After only a couple phone interviews
and reference checks (my NIU journalism adviser Donald Grubb
was a big help) I was hired and packed the moving van, dragging
my wife Kay, and two sons Todd and Darrin, back west again for
my second shot at newspapering in the Golden State. This time
the career move lasted 33 years.
Then I retired and, keeping a promise to my dear wife who
wanted to be near her family, we moved back to DeKalb in late
2006. A few old-timers back here remembered me and suggested
I might return to the Chronicle as a columnist. I've been cranking
out "DeKalb County Life" more or less weekly ever since.
The rest is history.