THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley

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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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Thank you, you idiot

Its going to take all the restraint I have today not to lace this post with foul language. I’m livid as I wake this morning and find the President has now put my life in jeopardy. Thank you very much A-hole. You see I just happen to work for “the media.” And our president (no longer using caps for that until someone else is in office) has just said that I am now part of “the enemy of the American People.” 

A very strong and threatening statement as far as I’m concerned. You see there are a lot of people who take our president very seriously. I know them, I’ve seen them and many of them are easily moved to action. And basically you just put me a war with half of the country. Do you think they are going to stop and ask if I write the articles or tend to their computer systems or print the papers? Hell no.

You want to make up new ground rules of living in this country in peace then I’ll start making up my own like the right to protect myself regardless of what might be the current law. And if some eccentric inspired by you comes after me or my friends just trying to earn a respectable living then we have a serious problem and I’m holding you responsible, and we will meet.

You think by being the loudest and having the largest microphone means you’re the only voice that is going to be heard you are very wrong. You think because you say it, that its, the only truth. Well screw you. I’ve stood up to bullies like you in the past in the business world and I’m not intimidated by you. Bring it on old man because I’m one also and I’ll kick your ass from here to next month. Threaten me. You have to be kidding.

Photo by Mike Hartley

Photo by Mike Hartley

I had no intention of writing this way this morning. I certainly didn’t want to have this post/blog become politically tainted. I was going to write about my favorite tee-shirt and the word on it. “RESPECT”. Well actually a Derek Jeter tee with the number 2 replacing the S. I was going to write about how respect is earned by actions and words. About how I’ve at least tried to earn the respect of my family friends and co-workers. Not always successfully because of my own failings, but I try constantly to set the right example, to try to do the right things, to have compassion and trust. To work hard, to be a responsible father, to figure out what is wrong and unjust and do the right thing. I was going to edit some more nature photos and post them. A very peaceful post was intended. But no, you got to screw with the first day of the weekend.

As I sit here hoping this venting would calm me a bit, it hasn’t but it has steeled my thoughts on NOT being open to you as a president for 4 years. I won’t have it any longer and thank you for motivating me to help in legal ways to remove you from office so you don’t put any more people at risk of harm.

Now I’ve got to work the rest of the morning trying to calm down and think positively and go about my life being able to greet people with a good morning, a smile and trust. All at the same time looking over my shoulder with no trust, for the person or persons intending harm on me if I happened to be wearing a company tee shirt. Now I have to take those out of the wardrobe to avoid confrontation. Thanks for my new reality A-hole.

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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.

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Newspapers – my industry in a nutshell

Read an interesting article called “Last Call – the end of the printed newspaper“. This was a well written and researched piece. I hate to agree with it because it probably means my job is going away also and being I’m one of the fossils at my organization it will most likely be sooner than later. I’ve always tried to be versatile and offer my employer many skills and adapt to the new technology or actually facilitate it coming in over my career. I think that is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to last as long as I have. And that is no small period of time. Not counting the few years in my youth (10-12 years old) that I delivered newspapers, I’m about to reach my 4th decade in the business.

Then I read an article that says the industry is alive and well. Of course this was published by the Newspaper Association of America and was called “Newspapers are still here and making money“. That may be true but it doesn’t look at the carnage that has already taken place and most likely will continue as newspapers form into new business models. And while I have the upmost respect for this organization, I find it like the industry overall. It has been slow to react.

Having been around this business for so long, I’ve seen many ups and downs. I’ve seen many people come and go. When I entered this industry it reminded me of the steel industry. People and families worked for the organizations for decades and it spanned generations. Newspaper people were loyal and it was as much as a family type atmosphere as I think existed in most industries. And those family ties went right up to the top owners and publishers in allot of cases. But just like baseball players learned, it’s a business, not a sport. And now this business that has been so slow to change that it allowed all kinds of competition to develop and thrive to the point were Newspapers are looking up to them for online business, it is in a mass contraction and reinvention process.

I have nothing but praise for this type of work. And when I say work I mean every job that is involved in producing a daily or weekly paper or magazine. I’ve enjoyed the many different roles I’ve had over my career. And I look forward to my future because of those experiences and the opportunities I hope it provides in the future. I’ve worked for small, medium and large publishers. And yes as they scale up the line the family effect gets somewhat diminished. And yes with the large company there is politics and all the other crap that goes along with a large institution.

But I wouldn’t change a thing as I reflect back on it. I’ve loved many parts of every organization I’ve worked for. And its the people I love. The experiences we shared, the wars we fought. The technology we revolutionized. The lives that are touched by our collective efforts. The enlightening of the general population and the debate that each article would FUEL. And I do mean FUEL. When I was a co-publisher of our local paper I never knew the depths people would go to express their opinions.

I remember the days I started in this business. I knew it was something that was exciting right off the bat. It happened every day, rain, shine, snow, heat. It takes allot of things to publish without FAIL. Courage, commitment, planning, knowledge, dedication, strength, adaptation.

From sweating in a press-room or engraving darkroom or making plates or running network cable or installing computers to being a lead system admin with access on hundreds of UNIX servers. I’ve sold ads, taken classified ad calls, done marketing and promotions, worked in the papers county fair booth which was very cool because we got to play MC because it was the information stand also and we had the PA system. I’ve unloaded paper trucks, I’ve worked an inserter machine and hand inserted millions of papers. About the only job I haven’t done is proofreading because I’d be a total failure at it as this blog will eventually prove.

As they say, variety is the spice of life. Having that many opportunities is easy for the small and medium size companies because they survive on many people wearing many different hats. But I’ve got to admit, I’ve been afforded a great number of opportunities at the largest firm also, but no where near the diversity of the smaller ones. . I hope to make it to the standard retirement age of 65 which means I’ve got another 7+ years. I think I can do it if I continue to learn, adapt, bend and give it my best. Hell, its gotten me this far so why stop now.

I pray this industry survives because of one major point. People need RELIABLE information and newspapers for the most part (yes with sometimes slanted agenda) have provided our democracy this information. For every slanted product there used to be one that you could read contrary opinions. The best have both in the same products. But anyway with this contraction this has become a danger to our society. I’m amazed at what people will believe now and how quickly their opinions are formed and become inflexible. They are headline junkies. They need more depth. And reading gives one depth. Its not a video clip that tries to explain and issue in 30 seconds. Let alone look at alternative points and discuss the pro’s and con’s of each.

I read allot online because the computer is my tool now but I still enjoy the tactical feel of a newspaper in my hands. But I’m old school and I know that. I know that its already changed and will continue to where I only have a tablet one day. If you haven’t noticed, people below a certain age only know of a newspaper if they are living with a much older adult.

You know what is sad though. The time where the hard copy clipping of your child in little league from the local paper is gone. Yeah you might have your own pictures.Yeah you might have shared it on Facebook with friends and family. But where does that electronic image go? Its gone. And everyone in the community hasn’t seen it. Or nor do they have clippings of events from their own family. And these things won’t be passed down from generation to generation as they had been. The can’t go down the street to their local paper and have a metal plate made that many framed of the news or event or picture appeared in the local publication. Yeah maybe I’m living in the past but I used to see the joy and smiles on peoples faces when they could HOLD it and show it to others and know that it was a widely published piece. It was their 15 minutes of fame now PRESERVED for a lifetime to be passed along to the next generation. Where is that Facebook post going to be?

This is why I still make hard copy prints of all my photographs. And when I give photos (hard copies) to friends, family I see them light up still and enjoy holding something or sharing it with another friend. Its not the same as holding at tablet, because when you flip to the next image a person can’t still be admiring the first one and sharing that with the person standing next to them.

Yes I know change is a constant. But as we progress from technology to technology we should recognize if were losing something important along the way.

I wish all involved with the publishing industry much luck, good health and continued employment. I wish those affected by reductions, layoffs, buyouts (if you lucky) the skill and knowledge to take what you have learned from this industry and apply yourself in the new world with the same attitude you gave that served this industry well for many decades.

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Newspapers – Newseum

Seems kind of ironic that I spend almost 4 decades in newspaper business and I work in DC at the Washington Post and I’ve never been to the Newseum. So I go there while I’m on vacation with my daughter and it was the wettest day we have had here in ages.

But it was a wonderful day. Any day with my daughter or son is a great one but seeing the history of journalism both in broadcast and print really made my day. I could spend 2 days soaking all that there is to see so I don’t think I’ll have a problem going back if I can get my other half to join me.

Wall of front pages on 9/11/2001 Photo by Mike Hartley

Wall of front pages on 9/11/2001
Photo by Mike Hartley

But a few things moved me. The wall of 9/11 front pages and the photos of journalist killed in the line of duty. I don’t use that term loosely. I know it’s reserved for those who put themselves in danger for the pursuit of there beliefs and values as soldiers. But these people are pursuing something also very important. The pursuit of the truth.

Wall of photos of deceased journalist. Photo by Mike Hartley

Wall of photos of deceased journalist.
Photo by Mike Hartley

Few things are more important than truth. And the truth is in short supply unless your there to see and hear it yourself. These journalist are the eyes and ears of the world. They are backed by news organizations that invest in these peoples truths and integrity.

Which brings me to the floor representing the new technology. It still begs the basic question. Whom is checking whom when it comes to blogs, websites, twitter accounts, Facebook post and on and on? For as we see every day some of the best of us are on display and some of the worst of us are right there side by side. So how is one to know one from the other. I know mistrust in the standard bearers of journalism has always been there also but it’s more accountable.

Newseum 5th floor looking down. Photo by Mike Hartley

Newseum 5th floor looking down.
Photo by Mike Hartley

And finally I must say I was totally inspired and wowed at the Pictures of the Year and Pulitzer Prize Photographs on display. I’ve been shooting a bit after seeing how far I got to go. But I’m shooting instead of being intimidated. As all good works of art should do. Inspire others.

I did something I can’t remember doing at any other museum. I brought a trinket at the museum store. Actually it was a bumper sticker. It was a play on words with a movie I also like called Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall stands on the beach and says “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Well the bumper sticker says “I love the smell of Newsprint in the morning”. I like it, its me. As they say about us old printers, cut us and we bleed ink.

Anyway, I would recommend a visit if you find yourself in DC. Have fun.