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EMPLOYEE MEMORIES: Edward D. Hagan: H-D newsroom taught me a great deal

Jan. 15, 2009 @ 08:19 AM

I am pleased to make a contribution to the editorial memorabilia for the 100th anniversary of The Herald-Dispatch.

In April of 1953, my parents and I had just moved a few months before to Huntington from a small central West Virginia town. I was home on spring break from my fourth and final year at Kentucky Military Institute and was looking forward to enrolling in the fall at Marshall University (then Marshall College) to study journalism.

One day I went down to the Huntington Publishing Company office to try to line up a summer job working for either The Herald-Dispatch or its afternoon partner, The Huntington Advertiser.

I was able to get in to see H-D Editor Raymond Brewster, who seemed to take an immediate interest in me. He told me to come back after I graduated from KMI and he would see if he could place me in a job. I did, and he did.

I was expecting to be assigned only to copy boy duties, but to my surprise he put me on the copy desk and instructed copy desk chief Bill Gibson to teach me how to write headlines and edit copy. In addition, I was sent out three or four times to interview subjects for feature articles, which were published in the H-D under my byline. What thrills for an 18-year-old!

I had only two copy boy-type duties. One was to fetch wire copy from the adjacent AP bureau and to strip copy occasionally from the International News Service printers. The INS-UP marriage that formed UPI was to come later.

My other copy boy duty was to go down to the press room at about 11 p.m. or when the first (Tri-State) edition rolled and bring checking copies back up to the newsroom. Then my shift was over.

I worked about 32 hours a week and was paid 80 cents an hour. It was such a valuable experience that I would have done it for no pay.

Raymond Brewster was a tall imposing authority figure. Many staffers felt intimidated by him, but he and I got along extremely well, and I always considered him my friend.

The staff was small in those days. Others on the copy desk included Boyd Jarrell Jr., who later became managing editor; Vernon Ball; Richard Smith; and a parttimer, Charles (?) Correll, who also worked on The Ashland Independent.

Eddy Oliver was the stereotypical city editor, who demanded accuracy and all the details. Harry Flescher (not sure on the spelling) was at times the only reporter on duty, although Tim Smith was there part of the time. Fred Burns was sports editor, and George Rorrer was his assistant.

Johnny Napier was woman's editor. She and Bill Wild, a young man from Vermont who came aboard later as a reporter, fell in love and got married.

Most of the staff of that day are now deceased.

It is interesting to note that Don Hatfield joined The Advertiser in the summer of 1953 following his graduation from Huntington Vinson High School. Don, who became a friend of mine, was first a sports writer. After I left Huntington, he became editor and publisher of one or the other of the Huntington newspapers. Later, Don became an executive for Gannett and retired a few years ago as editor of a daily newspaper in Tucson, Ariz.

In 1956, while I was still a full-time student at Marshall, AP correspondent Richard K. Boyd hired me for a full-time editorial position in the Huntington bureau. For years the bureau was located just off the newsroom on the 10th Street side of the building. In the mid-50s, an addition to the building was constructed on the north side, and the bureau moved into that.

In those days, the Huntington bureau was staffed with six editorial employees (Dick Boyd and five others) and six traffic employees (telegraphers). The bureau's main task was to file the West Virginia and Ohio state radio news. We also were responsible for news coverage of a large area of Eastern Kentucky as well as several counties in West Virginia. AP operations in West Virginia were reorganized in 1960. Charleston was made a control bureau headed by a chief of bureau, and the Huntington bureau was reduced to one or two newsmen.

Edward D. Hagan lives in Jacksonville, Fla.



 

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