THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley

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Navigating change

What a tricky business Publishing has become. Everyone is in search of their own sustaining strategy in a market that seems to be still contracting.

There aren’t what is called publications of record now. The trust is gone. You’re identified as one side or the other even if you tried to stay in the center lane. People don’t believe things from what was trusted medical journals to their community papers if they still have one.

It’s kind of funny that when the internet was first gaining popularity people warned about not trusting everything you might read on it. Somehow that has permeated every written word and publication on or off the internet.

Who will the new pillars of publishing be and what form will they be? Photo by Mike Hartley

And it seems to have turned off new readers because if you’re skeptical to start why would you spend time on a long story? A lot of people at one time would get multiple publications. Many times of varying opinions and positions. I think there is a saying that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The model for sustaining a publishing business has become a reach for everyone. Especially in print but even broadcast has been shaken to its core. The engine that drives it (advertising) has become an unpredictable beast. Classified and display advertising is what paid for those reporters covering your local courthouse or the fireman from the station down the street who rescued the family pets from a burning home.

It paid for the photographers who took the great shots at the local ballfields of your kids. It paid for the paper and ink that printed it, the postage, or the drivers who brought it to your homes. Well, that cash cow of advertising has left the barn.

And right now, only a few have found the cow and are having trouble getting it back to the barn.

In some ways, it’s been gut-wrenching to watch my newspaper industry once proud and providing an important mission along the way, become a shell of itself, with few left struggling to find their way. So many talented and dedicated people that covered their communities for decades and sometimes a century or more. So much history and knowledge.

A recent person with immense power called a majority of the world’s most respected publications “the enemy of the people” which further eroded any trust. It’s not publications that are the enemy of the people. It’s the people that are now the enemy of the people.

Everyone has their own beliefs and positions and that is a good thing. The trouble is now every other opinion or fact or view is WRONG if it doesn’t align with theirs. And that isn’t right.

Publications make mistakes because people make mistakes. Lots of respected publications go to great lengths to make sure mistakes don’t make it to print. Trying to ascertain the truth and facts with as much knowledge that can be brought to bear at that moment in time. Lawyers and editors fact-check and get verification from multiple sources.

And regardless if these publications printed that the Pope is Catholic you would have some that would say fake news.

After almost 50 years in the business here I am doing my own publishing thing with this blog. I don’t know what tangents I’m going to go off on yet. I hope most of it is focused on my photography and if I can get some good art or carvings together maybe that.

I love sharing my random thoughts and I’m going to try to stay as positive as I can. But life isn’t always that way so from time to time I’m sure I’ll stray.

I know I’m finding the more I do the more ideas I get and the more I have to keep me busy.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My better half is a good interior decorator.
  • Monday is special for a few personal reasons. Both of them are brand new.
  • Ideas abound, but time does not.
  • Don’t let less-than-perfect tools stop you from getting perfect results.
  • Sometimes you just have to appreciate the small accomplishments of the day.

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Sunday speed

Well, the weekend flew by and I’m figuring today will be no exception to that rule so I’m starting this early in the hope of having time to do something of substance between the chores and working for the man tonight. I’ve written some of my feelings about sports and me. And below that the countdown to retirement. And of course some Random Thoughts.

Now there is a creative way to get a child to use a toothbrush. Photo by Mike Hartley

Sports and Me

Sports is losing its appeal to me. Greedy owners, gambling, and some athletes’ attitudes and choices/examples all conspire to make it a less enjoyable experience. Not to mention the very wild interpretation of officiating from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of quality people in sports for the right reasons. Most athletes do some wonderful things for those less fortunate and some set a great example of human beings.

But what had been standards for decades have fallen apart. My example is college sports and conferences. What once were great rivalries and regional sources of pride are all gone. Add that to college athletes moving from school to school year to year is like watching pro teams that change the pieces more than they stay the same.

Gone are the days when college kids committed to a University, developed as players and people, and stayed the 4 years. I think back to the National Championship team of Maryland in 2001-2002. 3 of the starters were seniors, 1 junior and one sophomore rounded out the starting lineup. The first 4 guys off the bench were all seniors or juniors. In other words, EXPERIENCE – 4 players from that team went to the Pro’s.

Now if you see talent they are going pro in the first year or two. A lot of them are busts in that move. And then if you stick in college for a year or two you go to a better opportunity or more visible one at another school.

But let’s move on to something that my perception of has changed greatly. Pro and College Football are modern-day gladiators, leaving pieces of themselves in arenas around the country. Strength Speed and Techniques have changed the dynamic. The game hasn’t changed, the bodies within the field have. The 6-foot 180 lb lineman has been replaced by the 6’5″ 310+ lb behemoth of a man. Most kickers are bigger than most past position players. And fast, so fast that many still stare in awe each week at bursts of speeds by various players.

I hate to say this, but it’s only a matter of time before someone isn’t revived on a nationally televised broadcast. Then there is the brain. As someone who has had several concussions, I worry greatly about my future and the mental effects of them. I understand the love of a game no matter what it is. I also know that they are smart enough to be worried about those effects and some are probably thinking about playing fewer years.

It’s not just greedy owners or players. Fans have also changed. Passion has been replaced by fanaticism. Mix in some booze and gambling and loss of a normal perspective and you have some dangerous situations when you mix two opposing teams.

Worrying about point spreads or the over/under or parlays or whatever gambling terms I’m not familiar with, change the way fans view, act, and react at games. We have already seen several examples of fans being upset at a player who didn’t score enough for their bet. This was true for the local Washington basketball team in this article earlier this year.

Sports also changed from the common man to the elitist perk. Going to any major college or pro sporting event is something the common man has to think about the money involved. But corporations and the well-to-do buy-up seats like I pour gravy over stuffing later this week. And if you find seats in the upper areas they still want the arm, leg, and firstborn to attend.

The NCAA has been a failure. I love the change Major League Baseball made to speed up the game this past year and it has increased my viewing and interest. To me, baseball hasn’t forgotten the fans as much as other sports.

Sports is big business, just like gambling is big business. Now that they have merged it’s all money.

I will always enjoy playing any sport. I will always enjoy watching a sport be it the kids in the local little league, my Maryland Terps basketball team, the Yankees and Orioles going head to head, or maybe a Green Bay Packers game with my son someday.

I just feel bad for the youth because they don’t have my perspective on what I feel is being lost in modern sports. The true meaning of the joy of competition. I bet if people put in more time on their jumper, they would have a lot more fun instead of their faces in a smartphone making bets.


About 3-4 years ago I started a little countdown. I had grown frustrated with the direction in our area and to keep my focus and still have a goal I could look forward to I started counting down the weeks till retirement. Little post-it notes that I would keep a countdown till what I thought would be my retirement date. Week by week I’d tick off a number. It was my little reward at the end of each week for working hard regardless of the circumstances around me.

Well, about 2 1/2 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to work from home for the remainder of my career. I can’t tell you how that has made the last of my work time much more pleasant. Having to commute to the middle of Washington DC isn’t a good experience. And after doing that drive for over two decades of almost a hundred-mile round trip it was such a load off my personal life that the job was OK again.

I lost track of the number of weeks. That was till a few weeks ago when the company decided that date for me. A bit earlier than I thought but I’m fine with it now. Things are working out and I will be off for the New Year holiday instead of working. And I’ll be off all future holidays if all goes well and every other day for that matter.

But the weeks are down now to a single-digit number. And that is a good feeling indeed.

There are a few people I will miss. Ones I’ve shared many years, trials, and experiences with. Many have retired before me that I have missed a long time. Of course, I will miss the action. If I didn’t enjoy the chaos and pressures of working in the daily publishing business I would have left it decades ago.

I will miss the news cycle and seeing information and images come in before they are published. I will miss keeping up with technology. I will miss the smell of ink and paper when I go to the plant. I will miss the activity and electricity on election nights. I will miss being part of The Miracle on 15th Street.

Which leads me to a sudden realization. I didn’t start out with this plan. I worked hard for many opportunities and had others come along. I’ve worked in many capacities within my industry and learned many wonderful things. I’ve been blessed working with a lot of very good people along the way. Yeah, some assholes also, but luckily they were far outnumbered by good people. I like to laugh and found a great number of people who also liked humor. You had to have humor in high-stress environments.

And as I enter the final weeks I’m glad I made the decisions along the way I did. Were they always the right ones? I did pass a few management opportunities. Also some other technical ones. Only the ones I did make count and I’m very happy with the work I’ve done along the way.

I’m so glad that the relationships along the way have remained so strong and active. And that is a blessing. I hope others can feel fulfilled in their jobs when they reach the end of them. Especially my own children.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I admire a child’s creativity and freedom of expression.
  • A snowball still tastes great in 50-degree weather. Only 3-4 more weeks before they close for the season. Then I get to Jones for 3 months till they open again and signs of spring arrive to rescue me from the cold.
  • Be something special to your children and grandchildren.
  • Too many of us are just out for ourselves. That is a sad thing to say.
  • Being around children gives me hope. Most young people give me hope. It’s the adults that panic the crap out of me.

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Free me

Music tends to free my spirit. It encourages my body to move. It evokes many different emotions. It inspires and relaxes. It amazes and transfixes one. It causes reflection and memories that make the hair on your neck stand up.

It’s what I turned on this morning when my better half left for breakfast with friends. It’s what I drove to this afternoon on the roads. It’s what will take me into the evening tonight.

In Frederick Maryland. Photo by Mike Hartley
Softening a sidewalk. Photo by Mike Hartley

Got the best little device for my new phone. A wireless remote phone grip that has a handle like my camera grip from Kiwifotos. So I can hold that with one hand and it has a shutter on it so no going for buttons on the phone. Oh yeah, one of the most important features. A wrist strap also. I have a usable camera now.

The new grip.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I didn’t realize the significance at the time when I was growing up, but I lived next door to the Mulligans. I should have seen if they liked to golf.
  • I swear someone has control over the fast-forward button when it comes to weekends and they keep pressing it.
  • This is going to be a very busy week.
  • Grandchildren make you realize how fast time goes by. They grow so quickly in such short periods.

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Writing on the wall

I write on the walls with pictures. Looking at the wall behind me I have probably over 100 images from a beloved building we worked in for decades that was sold and was to be torn down. In those last days, people took to writing on the walls, leaving messages that captured the meaning and times of the building and what was done there.

I wish I had taken the time to capture each one. I was just going around snapping a few memories of what once was a bustling place of thousands. And now it’s just a memory. But those pictures I have arranged to make into something else are ones of many writing on the walls. No longer dust in a landfill, they have life. Now if I can just decide on what I want to make with them.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen a lot of industries that have had writing on the walls and then they are gone. Like the Newseum below, gone from our collective history. I’m so glad I got a chance to go there before it closed.

Wall of front pages on 9/11/2001 at the now-closed Newseum. Photo by Mike Hartley

The writing on the wall is there for all of us eventually. But I’m still alive and kicking and I’ll keep cranking out what I can to fill my walls and others. This reminds me, I have to find a place with old office partitions for sale that I can use to display some of my work. I’m pretty sure I’m exceeding the usable wall space already.

That won’t stop me from printing. I just fired it up so let me get some production in progress. Be well all.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I’m about to overdose on College Basketball this weekend.
  • Momentos make me smile.
  • Worry can be disabling emotion.
  • Time to eat well for a few days.

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Ink and paper

Ink – No not the tattoo kind. The kind a printer would tell you he bleeds when cut. When I first started in the newspaper industry I had the opportunity to work in the pressroom for a while. My main department was engraving but the press crew was either short or behind most of the time so it looked like an interesting toy to learn. And what a toy it was. An old 9-unit Goss Suburban web offset press. 4 units on one end and 5 on the other, folder in the middle.

Presses back in the 60s and 70s were machines that you crawled up on and in between most of the time. Not like the modern console controls of current technology. Days when the press was stopped to change rolls of paper. Days when you had plate changes. When manual ink adjustments were made while it was running and you were kneeling or hanging on a side rail and step making adjustments. Brake controls were by hand. Roll changes were by brute force.

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

But before you got to any of the fun stuff you had to “fly papers.” In addition to the dirty work, cleanup, and washdown, you had to learn to fly papers and be good at it. This involved two people, one standing on each side of the conveyor leaning over and scooping up papers as they came off the press in increments of 25 or 50 depending on the size of the paper. You would then turn quickly to a small table behind you to “jog” papers. Getting them perfectly aligned, turn pick up the next batch, jog and then stack on top of the previous stack and put that on a skid before you have to grab the next batch.

If I remember correctly when they were in a hurry which seemed to be all the time the press top speed was around 18,000 copies per hour. That’s about 300 a minute. So between 2 people you were picking up 6 bundles a minute, jogging and stacking. Sometimes you just had one person on the conveyor. And when I say conveyer it was about knee high and only about 8 feet long so it was constantly bending over to pick up papers and presses didn’t stop because you had a kink in your back or any other reason than a web break, roll change or end of the run.

Those were some fun days. That plant in Ellicott City on Main Street is where offices of the Times papers and presses were. They ended a long time ago and now I’m wondering which year I’ll see most newspaper printing cease completely.

A bumper sticker I can Support. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Thinking about priorities a few times a day helps the day along in a better way.
  • How well do we really even know those closest to us?
  • Isn’t it ironic that medical bills will kill you?
  • If you’re always working harder to know those closest to you, that is a special thing because we all change over time.
  • I hate acknowledging that there are just a lot more bad people in the world than I thought.

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Rewarding afternoon

Some old members of Patuxent Publishing Company/Times Newspapers gathered today at the old Flier build in Columbia for a clandestine meeting/reunion. Seeing many old faces, some of which I didn’t recognize immediately was great. It’s been 2-3 decades and sometimes 4 since some had seen each other. There were a few of us present who started in the 70s.

Home for a few decades. Photo by Mike Hartley

Of course, I see a lot of them still regularly. One of my best friends, in fact, we started working together in 1980 and have become brothers. Another group I meet with for breakfast about every month or two. Covid did impact us for a bit but we still Zoomed.

This day reminded me of good times. Of laughter and fun together in a small community newspaper group that flourished and faded after many decades of success. There is very little community journalism anymore. And at the same time, more of it but weeding it out isn’t a pleasant chore. Plus the fact-checking or second read and confirming facts/statements from people isn’t there.

No single person or small team can give you the breadth of coverage a community newspaper could. Sports, education, local government, crime, features, business, arts, movies, food, and more all in one place. That kind of product no longer exists in many communities. Advertising moved on to other mediums and that life support system that sustains the staff to bring you all the local news is gone from the print media for the most part. And if something does remain, the remnants of the Howard County Times or Columbia Flier or Catonsville/Arbutus papers are a good example of papers that are shells of themselves and eventually too costly to continue.

Each organization has its own website or newsletter or podcast or Instagram. I remember the days when people would walk into the office on Main Street in Ellicott City and request photos of their kid hitting in little league and meeting another neighbor who was getting a few extra copies of the paper because it listed the school’s graduation roster and people used to send papers to relatives with their kid’s names in them.

But back to the people meeting today. If you are ever lucky enough to work in an organization that is blessed with a lot of special people working very hard together who like to have a good time and lots of laughs while doing it. That is a special thing and I heard that from a lot of people who worked there today. And that was my experience and many others. And therefore the bond of that shared experience binds this group of former employees.

Some of it I think is attributed to the length of time a lot of us spent together—decades in a fair amount of cases. And in a medium-sized company, you still get to know a good number of people pretty well. Some very well and some into lifelong relationships that are carried on decades after working together.

After so much time has passed many have relocated and moved but still stay in touch via Facebook and loved seeing pictures. Also as time has passed some well-loved people have passed on. One big one was just this week. And he is the type of man who would have been at this event and loved it.

There were people there I hired decades ago. I’m really proud of how a lot of them carried on their careers. It was great seeing where people had traveled professionally after working together. Some had actually reunited in the same companies many years later.

I also realized a few things today. I let a few relationships lapse that I hope to do a better job at keeping in touch with in the future. I already keep in touch with a number of people who couldn’t make it that day regularly but I also need to do more in making that more frequent.

I doubt this will be the last gathering. I think the group will actually expand in the future. It was a nice flashback to a wonderful period of time and events on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Owning a home is a second full-time job unless you can pay someone else to take care of it.
  • I feel incomplete, I missed seeing my grandchild this week.
  • Ah, the weekly battle with Mother Nature begins again.
  • Today I’m glad I live in the state of Maryland.

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Little scared and lots excited

It could be a year or slightly more of full-time, and maybe a few more months after that or none of part-time. The days of working for someone else will be over. I’ve been really excited about that time, but at moments I do get a little scared.

Is the timing right? Will we have enough? How will it be going from private insurance to Medicare and all the add ons needed? Will my better half kill me being around the house all the time? Will I become lazy? Will I lose that mental sharpness that my job keeps me at?

Will I suffer withdrawal from that daily newspaper excitement my job brings in an industry I’ve worked the last 46 years in? Certainly, the work relationships will change but will they also survive. I’ve worked mainly for 2 companies in those decades. I have some wonderful friendships from each to this day.

They said it was a daily newspaper when they hired me. They neglected to tell me how many days they cram into each week. Photo by Mike Hartley

In some ways retiring from my industry will be a double-edged sword. I love the prestige of working for what I believe to be excellent journalistic institutions on local, national, and international levels. I feel honored to have been supporting their efforts and the people that make such wonderful contributions to inform, enlighten, educate, make you think, laugh and cry. And so much more. They help you understand issues and to explain and find ways out of very difficult and complex problems that face both our local communities and the world overall. Is there success at every turn they take, no but tell me something else in the world that is perfect?

From the first day in it, I was addicted to the newspaper business. It’s been a very fun, stressful, rewarding, enlightening, educational, and joyous experience. Did I bitch about it along the way, hell yeah, every job has its ups and downs, good and bad management cycles, opportunities taken and some passed. But I know I will miss it.

This is an illusion. Newsrooms never sleep. Photo by Mike Hartley.

For the majority of my professional life, I have been on-call. That will also be something to adapt to. Will I suddenly feel no longer needed? Hell NO. It will be great. I’ll just hand my on-call schedule over to my kids to make for me when they need help with my grandchildren.

And then the time adjustment. As Keith Jackson (old football announcer) would say, Whoa Nellieeeee. I keep the most insane hours now. Will I adjust and go back to a life that others consider normal or will I be pulling a few all-nighters a week as I do now and on other days starting before sunrise?

All kinds of questions about change. Not any minor change either. Two of my best friends will be working another year or two probably after I retire. I’ll have to resist my urge to tease them about having to go to work. Then again I plan on being very busy so I probably won’t even think of it. Well yeah, maybe a few digs here and there will come.

Oh yeah, I forgot to elaborate on the other side of that double-edged sword. Like I said it’s been a wonderful career. Throughout it, the feeling was an asset to the community. Yes, people have always felt differently about opinion sections and politics. Some to the point of being mad and making threats. But those were the exceptions. But most thought it an honest endeavor.

Now it’s serious and growing worse. I do know significant steps for security started 6-7 years ago and haven’t lessened. When a President comes out and calls your industry “the enemy of the American people” it kind of puts you in a difficult position because a lot of people interpret comments like that literally. And to be totally honest I haven’t felt too comfortable in the last few years because of people’s hostility.

So for the first time ever I’m careful about sharing where I work when I meet people. I don’t wear my free company swag as much outside. And that is kind of weird. But it’s a changing world. Who knows, maybe this simple blog will incite someone. I hope not. But it is a chance now when you express any opinion.

So with the time remaining, I’m going to try and savor the final few curves (months/years) in the roller coaster. I’m going to try to pass on what knowledge I haven’t yet. I’m going to look around, shake some hands, give a few strong hugs and express thanks to some key people for the opportunities and joy of working with them.

And on that last day, I think I’ll make a zig-zag home. I’ll leave my current downtown office, I’ll stop by the old Post location at 15th street NW. Then over to the printing plant in Springfield Va and on the way back a stop by Tysons Corner where the old data center used to be. Maybe a ride further west where the current one is. Over to College Park where the old printing plant once was. I’ll swing by the Flier building in Columbia, and then to Ellicott City where I started at 18 years old at the TImes building on Main Street. I’ll walk down to the bottom of the hill to the old stone building just before you cross the bridge when 3 of us started a newspaper from scratch.

Each location holds many special people and many special memories. One day you’re leaving high school wondering what you want to do, what you want to be and you blink your eyes, and you’re in eyeshot of the finish line. But it’s time to explore a career I thought about having before I embarked on one in Newspapers. But as the bumper sticker says below says, I will ALWAYS Love the smell of newsprint in the morning.

A bumper sticker I can Support. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • There is no time at day or night that a cold Coke doesn’t taste good.
  • Sometimes when I look back now I wonder how I kept so many phone numbers of people in my head before smartphones came out.
  • Like a bear who came out of hibernation early, I have an attitude about the cold today.
  • I really dislike spiders. And I belive they know it.
  • I’m starting to get concerned about the number of memorial mass cards I’m finding in my office.


Thank you and Condolences

I learned of the passing of a member of my newspaper family yesterday. Bob Moon was the husband of Jean Moon, the General Manager of the Patuxent Publishing Newspaper chain located in Columbia Maryland. An Architect, Bob designed the Flier Building in Columbia where I worked for 17 years. His death has triggered a lot of memories for me and I’m sure many others.

Patrick’s Entrance for us old timers. Photo by MIke Hartley

I had started with the Times Newspapers when they were in Ellicott City on Main Street in an old run-down building that now houses LaPalapa, SuCasa Furniture, and Main Street ballroom. Yes, this was back in the ’70s. The age and character of the building matched the wild personalities on the inside. The place was blue-collar, rough, and tumble old school. Some might even say a bit of old country Howard County.

This was a full production facility. Pressroom, Mailroom, Engraving, Typesetting workers in production and with Editors, Writers, Designers, Salespeople, Truck drivers out front. The place was loud and dirty and it constant chaos. But I did love it also.

The Flier building view from Little Patuxent Parkway. Photo by Mike Hartley

In 1979 Patuxent Publishing purchased several of the Times papers, others closed or were sold to other buyers. The Times building was sold along with most of the equipment and like the Clampets we packed up our bags and headed to Columbia.

The Flier Building. I was beautiful with a flag on that pole and that tree in front blooming pink blossoms. Photo by Mike Hartley

There were many difficult days when this transition took place. First, we lost a lot of old friends. If memory serves me right before I look at the newspaper clipping I have on the wall of the sale we had a few hundred employees in EC. I think only about 60 of us were hired by Patuxent.

We had our tail between our legs because the competition had won and bought us out. Soon to be gone was the place where I learned my trade and a lot of people I loved working with. This transition was rough on both sides and took a lot of adapting by all involved. But two very different cultures and backgrounds soon developed into a new community of people working together. It was a wonderful transition to something that we all cherish dearly to this day even though decades have passed. Sometimes when your being handed a pass to Camalot you don’t really know it at the time.

Home for a few decades. Photo by Mike Hartley

The two buildings couldn’t have been any more different. Main Street was old and falling apart. The Flier building was brand new constructed in 1978 I believe. Main Street was dark and dirty. It was a brick building covered in many years of ink and newsprint dust. The Flier building was WHITE, clean, and pristine and didn’t smell bad. It has so many windows, some floor to roof, and skylights letting the days light and added a beautiful feel to the space inside. It had angles on top of angles, big staircases, and tall open ceilings in much of the upstairs.

Photo by Mike Hartley

There were planters filled with trees and flowers in a vast open lobby in Columbia. Kind of ironic if you think about it. The only trees that came into Main street were in the form of Newsprint rolls that weighed around 2 tons each. If you brought a plant into the Main Street office it would have been dead in 24 hours due to the chemical and ink smell, lack of light, and covered with the newsprint lint. The bathrooms were clean in this new office. You didn’t worry about ruining clothes by accidentally brushing a wall or door as you did on Main Street. It had air conditioning which that old drafty and dirty location in EC only had in the front offices. In the summer we would sweat like pigs and in the winter we would freeze our behinds off.

The new building was one of the first things I warmed up to. Maybe because it actually did have heat and A/C. But in meeting Bob I could see where his inspiration for the remarkable design of the Flier came from. He would always give me a warm smile just like the skylights scattered throughout the building did. He would stop and talk or invite me to his office which was next door to our photography/reproduction area to look at new architectural drawings. Bob was a talker. I know because they say it takes one to know one, and I am one. I think one of my first visits to the building for my interview for a job, Bob was out in the lobby and introduced himself with a welcoming smile. He wasn’t part of PPC but he was in a special way.

Photo by Mike Hartley

The longer I was there the more it felt like home. New friendships were made and many have lasted to this current day. It was a special place to work. With Bob’s design and Jean’s spirit that place was as alive as anything, I’ve experienced. Jean was a driving force for that organization. And their spirit was infectious to many who worked there for many years.

Thankfully many people above me allowed me opportunities that allowed my career to flourish. And in that, I got to work and touch many areas. There might be only a small handful of people who know that building better than I do. I think I crawled and worked in every inch of it several times over. I was there day and night so I got a great view from it. You always knew what the weather was because there was a window or skylight everywhere. Well, not the restrooms but everywhere else.

You could see your friends coming in from a good distance so you could prepare pranks on them. You could see who was having a rough day and was out walking or sitting in the parking lot or deck behind the building. You could look out the back windows at the huge daycare facility and watch the hundreds of little tykes in their Halloween costumes doing their annual parade around the parking lot. You could go up the ladder in the loading dock to the roof with a folding chair and look out over Columbia. Oops, that part wasn’t well known.

The old Editorial area. Photo by Mike Hartley

The place had a grand lobby. It was where we would gather for our company photos. It was where half my crew would be caught trying to chat up the receptionist of the day after dropping off reproductions to the design departments.

I lost count of the times the interior space was redesigned for our constant expansion. And Bob seemed to be part of that process often. The whole building felt like my home. It was small enough where you knew all the inhabitants but large enough to not be a mom and pop shop. We were the second-largest publisher in the state of Maryland behind the Baltimore Sun which eventually purchased the company shortly after I left.

Light from above. Photo by Mike Hartley

They say the tone of a company comes from the top. Well, Bob and Jean created a beautiful place, filled with a beautiful spirit, a ton of ambition and dedication. And that feeling seemed to trickle down to everyone who walked through those doors to work there. And when I left there I had some tears in my eyes because I knew something special was passing.

Bob faced some daunting and huge medical challenges in his life but that smile remained.

So thank you Bob for designing a wonderful home and to you both for making it feel like a real family lived there. RIP Bob.

PS: Please forgive the quality of these pictures. I had the opportunity to visit the building after it closed and the staff had moved downtown Baltimore. So it’s far from its pristine and beautiful days. Especially when it was filled with a lot of great people doing wonderful work and having fun together.

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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.


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.


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.