The State-Record Newsroom Reunion of 2012

With Jim Foster and Jeff Miller.

Note the similarity between the photo at top, from Saturday night, and the extraordinary black-and-white photo at bottom. And no, it’s not that both contain anachronisms. It’s that Jim Foster — former city editor, former features editor at The State — is at the center of both. And is, compared to most of us, relatively unchanged.

The one on the bottom was contributed by Maxie Roberts, former denizen of the photo desk at the paper, to the effort to gather people from across the country for The State-Record Newsroom Reunion of 2012. Near as I can tell, this was taken probably within the year before I joined the paper in April 1987. I say that because I recognize most of the people, they look about the way they did when I arrived, but there’s one person who I know left just months before I got here. Actually, the clothing isn’t all that anachronistic, but check out those old Atex terminals, connected to a mainframe array that in total, contained about 1/50th of the storage space I have in my iPhone. Which is why we had to constantly kill stuff out of the system in order to keep publishing.

At top, you see me with Jim, who now does communications for the Beaufort County School District, and with Jeff Miller, now the vice president for communications of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington.

At right, you see me with former Managing Editor Bobby Hitt, who now does something or other in state government.

You may notice a trend here. Yes, pretty much everyone I saw during my brief stop at the party was a former employee of the newspaper. Scrolling through my memory, I only saw one person currently employed there — reporter Dawn Hinshaw. Of course, I suppose that’s to be expected at a reunion, but still.

Aside from Bobby, there was even more senior brass at the party, two former executive editors — Tom McLean, of Columbia and Blythewood; and Gil Thelen, now of Tampa. Tom’s the guy who hired me at The State; he was also my predecessor as editorial page editor. I also saw Mike Fitts, Fran Zupan, Kristine Hartvigsen, Michael Latham, Tim Goheen, Tom Priddy, “Coach” Bill Mitchell, Bunnie Richardson, Jim McLaurin, Bob Gillespie, Fred Monk, Claudia Brinson, Grant Jackson, Tim Flach (OK, that’s two who still work there), and others whom I would no doubt be embarrassed to have forgotten to mention.

Most were wearing clothing appropriate to this century. The reason I was not was that I was playing hooky from Pride and Prejudice. I had been thinking I wouldn’t be able to drop by the party until 11 or so, and I knew it would have thinned out by then. But then, after my last appearance in the play in Scene 9, my daughter said, “Why don’t you go now (it was about 9 p.m.)?” I wouldn’t have time to change, because I’d have to be back by 10:30 for curtain call. But the party was nearby, at the S.C. Press Association HQ, and I could just run over there and spend about 45 minutes and say hi to everybody.

So I did. And used the awkwardness caused by my attire to plug the show, and urge everyone (all those who still live here, anyway) to come out and see it when we open at Finlay Park next Wednesday night at 7:30 (our Saluda Shoals run ended last night).

But this rare reunion of old friends and comrades would only happen once, so I’m glad I ran out and caught what little of it I was able to catch.

The newsroom, circa 1986 -- or the portion of it available for the photo that day. And yes, it's been a long time since this many people were in the newsroom at once.

15 thoughts on “The State-Record Newsroom Reunion of 2012

  1. Doug Ross

    Was the bottom photo taken prior to a “Valuing Diversity” meeting (like the ones I attended back in the mid-80’s)?

  2. Brad

    In one corner of that picture from the 80s, I think I see our then-religion editor, who was famous for having come up with one of the most ingenious ways I ever heard of for dealing with a nuisance caller.

    He got a call one day from a guy claiming to be St. Paul. The guy just wouldn’t get off the phone, and kept insisting that his return was big news, and that the paper needed to do a story on him.

    Our man calmly explained to him that the paper had a strict policy: We didn’t do stories on individual apostles.

    So, he said, see if you can get the other guys together, and then call me back.

    Then he said goodbye, hung up, and got back to work.

    This earned him great respect in the newsroom, because we all wished we had such presence of mind in dealing with the people who seemed to live to distract us from work, in the name of our being open and accessible to the community…

  3. Brad

    Doug, in an important way other than the obvious, that was the least diverse newsroom I have ever been in in my life.

    When Tom hired me as governmental affairs editor, shortly after this picture was taken, I was the first editor to come from another Knight Ridder paper. This was just months after KR had bought the paper from local family ownership. (The paper had zero budget to help me with moving expenses, because the idea of hiring a manager from somewhere else just wasn’t part of the culture. Tom fiddled my starting date to give me an extra week’s pay, which at least helped with the moving cost.)

    More than that — and someone correct me if my memory is faulty — I was the only supervising editor who had ever been an editor at another newspaper. Everyone else had come up through the ranks of The State and/or the Record.

    Not only that, the group that met for the daily news meetings was such a solid phalanx of USC alumni that they used to rag Tom Priddy, bottom left in the photo, for having gone to Clemson.

    Every place I had ever worked before that, newsrooms were a mix of two types — long-term locals who gave the place its flavor, and careerist vagabonds, who tended to grab most of the senior positions because they were willing to relocate to advance.

    This was the first place I’d been where the management consisted entirely of long-term locals (not that they were all natives, but they had all come up in that system). It was kinda nice, and kinda weird (to me, given my previous experience) at the same time.

  4. Steven Davis II

    What’s with the unbuttoning and untucking your shirt? The only time I’ve seen that at a party is with the guy drinks too much and is suddenly hot and needs to start stripping down.

  5. Joe Jackson

    Brad, we overlapped at The State for about 3 years, and at the reunion for about ten minutes. I glimpsed you in your fine attire, but failed to recognize you as my wife and I said a few goodbyes and left for our trek back home to Rock Hill. I wish I had realized my opportunity to say how much I’m enjoying your blog and links via twitter. I was then a staff photographer, and would describe myself as merely a professional acquaintance at best, but I have always respected your writing and look forward to your regular comments on our state and other issues.

  6. Tom Priddy

    Brad, I was an editor at The Greenville News before Tom McLean hired me away. So I guess I’m the exception to the locals.

  7. Tom Priddy

    Oh, and by the way, I still attend daily news budget meetings (now at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal) where they now rag me (in a friendly way, of course) for being . . . um, old.

  8. Maggie

    Is that Tom Priddy’s bearded doppelganger John Norton in the opposite corner (top right)? If so, he’s a Clemson guy, too.

    1. John Norton

      I’m in the picture – way in the back row, with the light glinting off my glasses. Is that a madras shirt!? Bill Higgins is two over to the right. Sorry I missed this – I would likely have shown up but didn’t get the memo. As for Clemson journalists, I see at least one more, I believe. Mike Smith, of the copy desk in those days, before he left for the AJC. Two to the left of Peter O’Boyle, if that’s him. Good but not very diverse times.

  9. Brad

    No on the specs — I pull them off and stick them in my pocket just before I step out into the lights. But I make sure that I’m wearing those small wire-rims, rather than my big hornrims, just in case I forget.

    And Tom — No WONDER they picked on you like some sort of outsider. It wasn’t just the Clemson thing; it was that you hadn’t come up in the system.

    This was all in good fun, of course, folks — but the running gag seemed to be that “Priddy is not one of us.”

    Of course, I was informed as soon as I arrived that I was seen as the Knight Ridder spy, and nothing I said or did would dispel that. Still, I was treated affably by all. Or almost all.

    Thanks, Joe! Good to see you too. Sorry we didn’t get to speak. I also meant to speak to Tim Goheen, but didn’t get the chance before I had to run. I have a bone to pick with that guy, having to do with a prank he pulled on me, and also (inadvertently) on Mike Miller, sometime in the late 80s.

    Steven, it was very warm in there. I had to take off my coat almost immediately, as unseemly, even insupportable, as it was for a gentleman to do so at a social occasion such as this.

    Here’s a picture of me, with Fran Zupan, just before taking off the coat. (Note the stance, with hand behind back, that I tend to adopt in costume. It’s wonder I shook hands with her, rather than bowing.) It’s in profile, so it shows off the prominent nose of which Kathryn speaks.

    Gee, I thought my nose always looked like that. Back when I had a full mustache, in the 80s, and wore glasses similar to those I wear now, I looked like I was wearing one of those Groucho disguises with the glasses, nose and mustache.

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