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The behind the scenes wire editor



 

 

When I was asked to write this column, it as because of my association with the former Daily Times-Advocate from which this weekly publication drags its name, a name which had not been copyrighted. As a clarification, there is no connection whatsoever between this weekly Times-Advocate and the daily newspaper for which I worked for 27 years, an association that ended in 1979.

I had begun employment in August of 1952 as a young, unseasoned sports writer on a small-town newspaper of about 4,000 circulation; “graduated” through the ranks from city editor to managing editor to editor through three different ownerships over 27 years. It all ended in August of 1979 when I found myself incompatible with out-of-town ownership and resigned from a paper that now had about 40,000 circulation.

During those 27 years, most of them by far honestly happy and memorable — far more than you can imagine — there were an untold number of employees, let’s say colleagues, that came and went through the doors of the T-A. It was not and is not uncommon to have turnover of personnel in a “small” business operation, as one acquires a few years of experience and then looks to move on to a higher-paying job that economically can’t be matched by the current employer.

That was the case with the T-A for which I worked. Over those years, we had some well-qualified people but were unable to keep them when higher paying jobs beckoned. But there were some exceptions. I was one of them, as was George Cordry, my best friend and colleague, about whom I have written. We both had opportunities to take jobs elsewhere, but opted to stay at the T-A for various reasons (George for 25 years), until local ownership ended.

But back to those other colleagues. I remember many names, but I must admit that I cannot recall the names of many of them. And this has all been a lead-in to talk about one of those colleagues in particular.

In any newspaper operation, especially the daily, there are people “behind the scenes” who have an influence on what we read, but of whom we are unaware. We see and become familiar with the names of reporters and columnists, but how about the person who decides every day which national or international story we’re going to be able to read? Or the person who

 

 

writes the headlines for those stories?

In our T-A operation of 50 years ago, one of those “behind-the-scenes” persons was Clive Manley. Clive was the T-A’s “wire” editor. His primary responsibility was culling through the hundreds of stories received each day over the Associated Press Teletype wire, selecting those he deemed to be of the most and timely interest. He also was required to help “edit” local copy and write headlines of stories to appear in the paper.

I want to tell this story about Clive, who died several years ago, because he had a drinking problem. He was an alcoholic. But let me explain. Clive had been hired in the early 1960s by Fred Speers, the first of the three owners for whom I worked. I think Clive was between 45 and 50 years old, 15 to 20 years older than most of us. I had no idea, nor ever learned, what Clive’s background was. But he was good at his job. I couldn’t argue about that.

At the time, the T-A was an afternoon newspaper. The staff started about 8 o’clock each morning to ready the paper for a “press” time (starting to print prior to delivery) of about 1 o’clock. Clive’s lunchtime started about then. That lunch break for Clive often stretched for two to three hours. And when he returned to the office, he had that “soft glow” about him. In polite terms, he was inebriated. But with Clive it was quiet, not obnoxious, not belligerent, not staggering.

Each afternoon, Clive was required to write headlines for the stories that were being prepared for the early pages planned for the next day. But, you know, Clive was able to function even in his condition. Why didn’t we fire Clive? Good question. I probably can’t answer it to your satisfaction. Some time after he was hired, I was promoted to managing editor and had the authority to fire him. I became so frustrated with him at times and talked to him more than once about the problem, especially coming back late from lunch. But we kept Clive on the job, probably because he was good at his job despite the monstrous elephant on his back. Then the day came when his wife telephoned that Clive had died in his sleep.

In retrospect, I have an idea that wherever Clive’s previous job was prior to employment at the T-A probably ended because of that elephant.


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