Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

When I began my newsie career in 1991, the newspaper had a circulation of about 25,000 on Saturdays and slightly less during the week. Circulation was therefore a key department as well, because the well-oiled machine of putting the paper out was really no good if we could not deliver it on time and make sure all the racks were serviced.

I recall the night shift coming in as we were getting ready to finish up our day’s work. From paste up to circ to press, these were not folks that we knew very well except by face as they arrived for work. Day shift and night shift were completely different worlds. But there she was in the morning when we woke up (“Our paper, our partner”), fresh and pretty off the press and stuffed with wonderful shopping inserts. (The prepress machine would stuff the papers if my memory serves me correctly!)

Oftentimes, we would return from a day out in the field (be gone by 10 a.m., don’t come back in until 4 p.m.) and find camera-ready ads on our desks from an agency or national account — sometimes a full page. Those were delightful! No layout required, just an insertion order attached to the camera-ready beauty.

During the days when we were doing a special Rodeo section or a similar local event, often the sponsor ads for beer or liquor would arrive that way, and I can still hear my friend Barbara squealing with delight, as she swiveled round on her office chair in front of me (invariably knocking things off my desk) to brag about this ad or that ad she had received like manna from heaven (we all had ad goals to make every month).

Barbara was a former Foster Farm chicken saleswoman in LA and could sell anything to anyone. She was the queen of the inventive mix (a trailer hitch company advertising in the Valentine’s edition springs to mind … “Get hitched to your sweetie”….) Sadly, she left us to sell oil to Arabia in August 1995 (not really, she sadly passed away), and our sales department was never quite the same after that.

I left retail advertising and went back to the classified department, where I put together the weekly real estate tab. That was a big job and, mostly, a lot of fun, since the real estate community had nowhere to go but the local papers for their open houses, new listings and so on. I got to know all the local characters during those interesting days of dealing with agents and their lack of consideration for a deadline. Now I’m a REALTOR myself, I see some of those same people have not altered one bit.

Then it was over to management I went and tedious chores of reports and so on, though classifieds were still a healthy animal, and we had a good-sized staff. It was fun managing the staff on the whole and cheerleading others to do better for themselves, while still trying to reach the ambitious goals that would be set for us each month. (“How are you going to make it up?” is a phrase that springs to mind from good old Gannett when we lost this or that account.)

I remember when the computer arrived — an enormous mainframe thing that had its own office that had to be kept cold. “Why do we need that big old thing?” I recall wondering. And then, the digital revolution arrived like a bat outta hell and all kinds of things changed — not to mention the layoffs and downsizing and horrible blows to morale.

I left the newspaper industry in 2003, though I continue to write columns to this day in a lovely local weekly that people look forward to and welcome into their homes. I still miss the old newsie world as it was in her heyday, not her decline, which was an ugly mess of an industry turning in on itself with talented, loyal employees kicked to the kerb like a massacre.

The old lady — that huge Salinas Californian building — was abandoned along with many people’s incomes, careers, hopes and retirements. I recently noticed that home delivery of the paper has gone sideways, and I can only imagine what the circulation is these days. When I picked up a copy of the old paper with a $1 price sticker (I recall a 25-cent single copy that was in place for a very long time), I was saddened to see the lack of local news and ads.

The old girl had truly gone away, and all we can do now is remember how things used to be, before the newspaper industry got caught napping and the world of all things digital arrived and took her place.

(Editor’s Note: For Part I of Lucy’s column, click here.)

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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