THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley


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Back to LIFE before the madness

Well my weekend has started and life is returning to what it should be. Time with family and friends. Maybe some good meals and rest. Some time for personal challenges and accomplishments. Time to regain sanity. Time to avoid the roads choked with traffic. Time to stop and take a shot of a pond. And hopefully time to do many more post.

Off Cars Mill Rd. Photo by Mike Hartley

Off Cars Mill Rd.
Photo by Mike Hartley

For this coming week will be insanity at the job that pays the bills. Because I work in the daily newspaper business and this election as most do, is sort of getting a lot of attention. So regardless of the outcome its going to be a busy time. Lots of angst among everyone inside those publishing halls. I always considered this odd. Especially working for a daily paper.

Yeah its an incredibly visible and important day. But its the daily publishing thing that is important to me. Publishing each day is the commitment. So I’ve always thought of it as you’re a success or failure based on accomplishing it every day. And when you do it 365 a year, you get like a professional athlete. You don’t get to high on the victories (the success of each day) and you don’t dwell in the defeats (when significant problems affect deadlines). And I have been lucky enough as some of my old-time co-workers would say “no failures on my watch.” Someday when I retire I hope I can say that all was well on my watch also over many decades.

So while others do a lot of hand wringing and worrying, it’s just another day in the middle of another tough week. And when I get home Monday and Wednesday nights, I’ll be just as proud as getting those print editions and digital news out as I will of getting the Election day edition out on Tuesday night.

It’s entertaining to watch the young ones in the industry and the excitement in them for big news days. I hope they stick around for the long-term and get many under their belts. Only that way can you appreciate the efforts of many people over many big events and sit back with calm and watch it all go down again.

For any day can be the biggest news day. When I came to work on 9/11 I didn’t know that day would turn into a 24 hour day and months of brutal days that followed. People making newspapers on December 7th didn’t know that morning would change the world for them. For myself I look forward to the day that headlines read, world leaders work for peace. Or maybe cure for cancer discovered. Wouldn’t it be nice to see an article about our government doing something positive that everyone could get behind.

Perspective is a very nice thing. But it seems to only come with age and experience. Oh don’t get me wrong. Many of those youngsters are smarter and wiser in the technology than I am. But most of them are one trick pony’s. Hell most of them have probably never even seen a newspaper press or worked on one. I suspect none have ever delivered a paper in the dead of winter. Most have never worked in the many areas that make up a newspaper publishing operation.

The days of wearing multiple hats are long past. The days of working your way up through the ranks are gone. But I believe a lot of that made organizations like that special places to work and grow as both a person and professional. But given the financial pressures of most publishing firms people are being asked to do much more or have many skills. So maybe the cycle is returning again.


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Torture to fond memories

Each day now as I drive to work, I look at the building I called home for almost the last two decades, being torn down piece by piece. This is a big complex of buildings in DC that used to be home to The Washington Post. Now its quickly becoming a pile of rubble. Don’t get me wrong, the new home of The Washington Post is beautiful, wonderful, temperature controlled and without rats and roaches so far. Really nice digs in other words.

L Street looking towards 15th St. Photo by Mike Hartley

L Street looking towards 15th St.
Photo by Mike Hartley

Boy my office now has a really nice view. That last structure backing to the Russian Ambassador's residence is where I was located. Photo by Mike Hartley

Boy my office now has a really nice view. That last structure backing to the Russian Ambassador’s residence is where I was located.
Photo by Mike Hartley

But that doesn’t make it easier. For some reason I am compelled to stop, watch and think. But as I watch it I feel like a part of myself and others are being lost. Life experiences are somehow changed when the physical environment that they happened in no longer exist.

I can go back to the building in Howard County on 8307 Main Street Ellicott City where I started my career in 76 for Stromberg Publications and stand there and think about hearing the noise of the press spinning up or seeing people running about, the smell of chemicals from the engraving room. Looking through a hole in the concrete floor and seeing the Tiber run under the building.

My first job in newspapers fresh out of high school. I was hooked. I was in love with what we did and who I did it with. I have friends still from that first experience. That place gave me a confidence in myself I didn’t have before. I had an opportunity and I stepped up. And its been a great ride from then on.

From L Street looking north along 15th St. Photo by Mike Hartley

From L Street looking north along 15th St.
Photo by Mike Hartley

I can go to Columbia at 10750 Little Patuxent Parkway and see the old Flier Building that I spent 17 years in. So many fond memories just driving by the place sometimes. So many great friendships, accomplishments and growth. Possibly the greatest and most chaotic time in my life. I wish I had appreciated it more while I was there because there were some wonderful things done by some wonderful people.

I can go to the bottom of Main Street in Ellicott City and see and stand in the building where two wonderful partners and myself started a newspaper from scratch. Talk about your life experiences. Wow what a wonderful and also stressful time. Learned a ton about myself that I didn’t know before, with that experience.

The launch pad of Zip Publishing and The View Newspapers. Photo by Mike Hartley

The launch pad of Zip Publishing and The View Newspapers.
Photo by Mike Hartley

But now my home of the last 18 years on 15th street is disappearing before my eyes. A strange feeling indeed. Sometimes I’m sitting on the street trying to figure out whose office now has a floor to ceiling window view that didn’t before. Sometimes I’m in awe of the machines effectiveness in ripping a structure like that to the ground.

Sometimes I think back to events on the exterior of the building. The Limos picking up some old friends retiring after many decades of service who retired together and celebrated on the way out. Talking to the gals and guys outside the L Street Employee and delivery access door while they finished off their cigarettes. I quit smoking there 17 years ago. But there was always some good conversations outside the walls there.

I remember the motorcades and guys in suits/sunglasses and hardware (guns) escorting dignitaries or government officials in and out of the offices. And I’m guess with the occasional sniper team on the roofs of adjoining buildings for the leaders of state/countries. I’m pretty sure I spied one once or twice.

Then there was the anthrax threat with white powder being sent to Editorial. Guys in space suits in the Building checking for contamination. The day and days after the election where people lined up around the block to get extra copies of the paper.

Sad days where the presses on 15th street were stopped and removed. Wonderful days where journalist won many Pulitzer prizes. Great days where my teams were involved in keeping that paper publishing every day without exception and only by remarkable effort did it happen. And all the way to current times where its a 24/7 operation.

Editorial offices at the old 15th st building. Photo by Mike Hartley

Editorial offices at the old 15th st building.
Photo by Mike Hartley

The glass on the windows out of the cafeteria were shattered the other day. I spent a number of breakfast, lunches and dinners looking out those very windows. I saw a chair that we probably sat in crushed but the laughter was still coming from it. I’m surprised they actually need to spray the building for dust as they tear it down. There were so many floods in that place I’m surprised it isn’t waterlogged. But again my mind wanders.

Think about all the famous people you have seen coming and going from this place. I Remember the time I walked out the L Street door and was met with secret service guys almost immediately because they had the street sealed off for the President coming into the Capital Hilton service entrance across the street.

The day and night of September 11th. Watching the city evacuate with sidewalks and streets clogged and an hour later the place being a ghost town and just Hummers with men with automatic weapons around. Very surreal image of DC that sticks with me today.

One of the many floods in the old building. Photo by Mike Hartley

One of the many floods in the old building.
Photo by Mike Hartley

An elevator ride with Ben Bradley, and he spoke to me. And always amazed at how many people Don Graham knew by name. And then there is the symbol of what I held dear as a sign of my industry. The Linotype machine that was at the front entrance on 15th street. A symbol of strength and the power of words on paper. A symbol of a time when newspapers were the main tool in communication in a democracy.

Lobby of the old Washington Post building. Photo by Mike Hartley

Lobby of the old Washington Post building.
Photo by Mike Hartley

Wow, a growing pile of rubble. This is a new experience for me. At first when I saw it begin, it was a nasty feeling that just hit me wrong to the core. And as the days progressed the emotions expressed above rolled along. Now I’m thinking about what is important about memories and becoming at peace as the demolition continues.

I look at all the wonderful relationships that I had and continue to have from that time there. I think about the gut splitting laughter at times I thought would never end. I think about accomplishments done with others over the years. I think about the loss of some people while there. I reflect on the special opportunity that my first boss gave me there and will ever be in her debt for it.

It was my first BIG company. My first experience with bureaucracy.  My first experience with such a diverse set of personalities and egos. My first experience of the pressures of a daily product vs a number of weekly ones. The pressures of being right all the time because everything was critical. But it’s always been exciting and I wouldn’t trade it or the people who are important to me that I’ve met through there for anything else.

For it’s a leader in the industry and draws awe from others. Then again if it’s a person who read an article that the paper published who they seriously disagree with, then it draws ire. Either way its interesting working for an organization that is recognized as it is. In some ways it is amazing. Some of the best teams of people at any newspaper.

Roll (butt) ends from press. Also doubles as crab placematts. Photo by Mike Hartley

Roll (butt) ends from press. Also doubles as crab placematts.
Photo by Mike Hartley

But you know, I had the same feeling when I worked at a lot of local papers. Great teams of people with the same dedication, drive and desire to produce the best story, photo, ad each time. To print it beautifully and to get it there on time regardless of mother nature. These institutions are special. They were and are part of the fabric of our nation. Communication, understanding, argument, debate, resolution. From nations leaders to the little league baseball organizations. From photographers on the front lines in wars to here at home covering floods, tornadoes and other disasters or terrors.

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I’m so proud to have had a career in newspapers. I think it would have made my parents proud. I think it’s an honest profession. And that is why it bothers me so to watch a physical symbol go as it is. But just as time has changed the newspaper industry. It will change for the current hot digital organizations also. But if you noticed that the journalism leaders before are still at the top of the digital charts also because content is always king.

Quality writing, images and video will always be important as well as being delivered consistently and on time. I just hope the future generation does it with dignity, honest/truthfulness and objectivity that past veterans have. For if they do they will have a place in the publishing world for a long time.


I’ve been working on this off and on for a few weeks coming back and adding or changing a line. Well the old buildings are gone as of about a week ago. So here is to hoping the new building on 13th and K and the new people inside the new one (along with a few old timers) can form many happy memories and experiences also. But the old ones will be hard to top.


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A thought on Publishing

As I was standing in Barnes and Noble the other day I looked down and saw this display sign. NewsStand used to be something that was celebrated. Where people exchanged greetings, shared thoughts and picked up their favorite reading material. Wow, how it has changed and nothing has changed. We love to read and see and consume. Just the way we get it is changing. Of course it’s advancing how, what and how fast we can see and instantly comment or form opinion or worse yet judgement on.

What once was the neighborhood of a few is now the land of the many. Photo by Mike Hartley

What once was the neighborhood of a few is now the land of the many.
Photo by Mike Hartley

You know I’m not sure if it’s the technology that gets the award for changing the face of publishing. I think it’s the experience every individual had when they realized they could be their own little publishing firm and how much fun it was. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or WordPress/Tumblr or any one of a number of versions of those category leaders. Or even your own website. It gets in your blood. I remember when people would come to our local newspaper offices for tours. I found it exciting to see people so impressed with the technology or the big steel in the press-room or in how the gallies of type came out of the processors. You could take them to the make up area and see them wanting to pick up the pieces (ads, copy, pictures, rules, borders) to see if they could do one of those puzzles.

There were letters to the Editors. (Letters “not email”) were sent in with praise or threats, people drove to the office to pick up reprints of photos or plates of the page their story was on. Sometimes the whole family would come or the whole team and coach to pick them up. It must be like today when you get followers and comments/likes on a post. The difference is in this world the connections are mostly electronic. Those face to face meetings can happen through local events for the online community or bloggers/photogs and writers but nothing like the old days.

Everyone has a camera now. Back in the day if you saw a guy walk on the field with one lens a foot long another camera over the shoulder and a tripod you knew your local community photo was at the game. Now news organizations are stripped so thin they can’t send a photog to the games like they used to. Hell most don’t even employee Photographers in any large capacity anymore.

The tools that had been the province of News organizations like professional photographers with costly cameras, reporters using terminals tied to a front end system that cost a fortune, video and sound equipment only a network supported TV news operation had were now in all our hands with very good quality for a fraction of the cost. All of a sudden each of us could do the same thing large organizations had been doing for decades pretty much without competition. Because instead of sending a physical product we send bits of information. Of course none of us online wanna be publishers are capable of printing a million papers tomorrow when the Internet goes down.

And think of how few blogs and other publishing tools are free of FACT CHECKING or for that matter Spell Checking. Publishing is built on trust. Its built on honesty. It’s build on a foundation of many people usually working for a common goal. It’s a business when people pull together in a crisis. I was at the Washington Post on 9/11 and while everyone else was leaving town in an unseen before evacuation. People stayed at work to get the infrastructure geared up or were rushing in and out to get the news for others to consume.

So I try to emulate that kind of spirit and the basic is being here each day. Doing more each day. Making this a better read and visually pleasing each day. For I’m in it for the long haul till these nimble little fingers no longer work or I can’t find a speech to type translator that is effective or I can’t upload a photo or video any longer.

Random Thoughts for Monday August 24th 2015

  • You can’t here the crickets unless you open your windows. That is, unless one got in your house.
  • Only a hammock can bring my back rest. Now how to fit one in the bedroom. Well maybe I can put it up in the corner of the basement.
  • You can’t underestimate the strength you can get from friends.
  • I’m still giddy that the University of Maryland basketball team preseason ranking is as high as #1. I must get some tickets for a few games this year.
  • Congrats to my daughter and future daughter in-law on the first week of school starting. If you know these two, your children would be very lucky to have them as teachers.
  • I’m tired, but I have so much to do.


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One of my Homes

When you think of the word home, you think of where you eat, sleep, toil and raise things. Well in some way all my jobs and business are homes. And this one below 8000 Main Street suite 101, was one of them for a few years that met all the criteria. It was the home of Zip Publishing and later the View Newspapers. Founded by Phyllis Greenbaum, Pete Cook and myself.

Our 1st Home

Our 1st Home Photo by Mike Hartley

But this home was different from the one that I spent my first two decades in newspapers in. For this was ours. Our own business and our decisions. It was a wonderful time in my life. I learned things about myself I never knew. It was full of risk and leaving my comfort zones in a big way.

It was great in that I loved and still love the two people who this started with. They are talented, wise, caring and hard-working people who created something special for the area of Ellicott City and the surrounding communities. And continued it and grew it into a professional package, and eventually purchased by the major newspaper publisher in the area about a decade later.

And while I stayed a short time in its overall history it was an experience that feels so rewarding in the sense it gave me confidence I never knew I had.

It flew in the face of all conventional wisdom. The area was dominated by daily and other stronger, established local papers that had decades of history in the community. There were business newspapers and real estate rags also to compete with. Not to mention the shoppers and inserts. And everything had name recognition but us.

Even though we had decades of experience in the industry doing every aspect of the business got out of our expertise and we had to learn and adapt on the fly. And that was a lot of fun also. You always have to adapt. No matter what you do. I’m so glad we took that chance. I’m so glad not to have made the safe move. I’m so glad that I was able to learn and grow. And I’m glad we had that time together.

I was just rummaging through some archive pictures and found this one and fondly started to reflect on my days as a business partner with some wonderful people. And of course thanks to the many Friends and Family, who made it possible in the beginning.

Maybe before my memory starts (whoops too late), I’ll try to recollect some stories from the old days to bore people with.


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Newspapers – Ben Bradlee

Earlier this evening marked the passing of one of our institutions icons, Ben Bradlee. I’ve had the pleasure of working at the Washington Post for almost 2 decades now so I thought it fitting that we mark this passing of a significant figure in this companies history. I’ve seen Mr Bradlee around the office before. Even road in the elevator with him once. I didn’t know him personally or professionally, but what I did know is that he seemed to have this presence about him. He had a great smile and you could see people immediately snap to attention. I’ve listened to stories of old timers here (no there aren’t that many left) about him and the Post heydays under his leadership.

I’ve been in the industry for 4 decades now and I’m inspired by a number of people I’ve met through those years. As I read about him this morning I’m so impressed with his accomplishments but more about what he was to people and his profession. Most of which I was aware of but the one fact I didn’t know. He, like my father served on a Destroyer during WW2. The Post has a great write-up on him here.

People with courage are what make this country great. I believe he was one of them.