The Winchester Sun has a new editor — again. I wish him the best, but am reluctant to get too attached. His name is Miles Layton. And from what he’s written so far, he sounds like an experienced journalist eager to integrate into the community. I hope he does.
I love The Winchester Sun. Always have, always will. But the relationship is… complicated.
I grew up reading The Sun, as did everyone else I knew in the 1960s and ‘70s. The Lexington papers (there were two then, the morning Herald and the afternoon Leader) were also staples in our house, but only The Sun kept its finger consistently on Clark County’s collective pulse.
Around 1980, not only did I read The Sun, I began writing for it. Fresh out of journalism school, I was hired as a cub reporter by then-editor Bill Blakeman, one of Clark County’s most ardent citizens. I have never forgotten him calling me “a crackerjack reporter” — high praise for an idealistic young journalist.
The Tatman family of Indiana published The Sun then, but didn’t seem very involved in our day-to-day operations. I never saw or met any of them. Winchester’s own Betty Berryman was the general manager. We had a full editorial staff: three or four full-time reporters, a couple of sportswriters, a news/copy editor, and the indefatigable James Mann taking pictures, which he developed and printed himself — how times have changed! We even had a “society” editor, the gracious and impeccable Elizabeth Hunt.
My employment with The Sun was brief but memorable. It started with an internship during my senior year at the University of Kentucky. At the time, Rolling Stone magazine was my bible, Hunter S. Thompson, my god. Remember gonzo journalism?
When I graduated in May of 1980, Jann Wenner wasn’t hiring, but Bill Blakeman was. My first day on the job, I sat down at my dented metal desk and surveyed the tools with which I would ply my new trade: an electric typewriter, a stack of paper and a gluepot, scissors with impossibly long blades, a telephone. The Associated Press wire machine clacked noisily in an enclosed space nearby, telegraphing breaking news from around the globe.
For a time, my newbie duties included arriving at 6 a.m. in the dark and deserted newsroom to edit the overnight wire stories so we could print them in that day’s edition. Local news was gathered in person and via telephone, typed out on paper that we literally cut and pasted together before handing over to typesetters — lightning-fast keyboardists who readied the copy for the page layout folks stationed just a few steps away. Once the pages were composed, they were turned over to the printing press crew, which worked its dark magic in the bowels of the building.
Yelling “Stop the presses!” was a real thing back then.
But that was only half of the operation. While we editorial types were harvesting and packaging news, an energetic advertising department full of talented and persuasive personnel scoured the region selling the ads that kept our bread buttered on both sides. Subscription sales were robust — everyone subscribed to The Sun.
Together, we functioned like a well-oiled machine, a team, a family, almost. And like any family trying to thrive under the same roof, there were good days and bad days. But the news never stopped, and neither did we.
Or neither did THEY, I should say, because I did stop. A young and restless 22-year-old, I left The Sun shortly after our typewriters gave way to the clunky computers that revolutionized the industry. I couldn’t practice gonzo journalism there anyway, so why not go to beauty college? (Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time, OK?)
Of course, doing hair didn’t cut it for me either, so I spent the next decade or so drifting in and out of various writing gigs, all the while keeping tabs on my beloved hometown newspaper.
Over the next 30 years, wherever I lived, I read The Winchester Sun — more closely during some periods than others. You never forget your first love, after all. At times I was delighted; at times, disappointed. It pained me to see good people leave, events go unreported, typographical errors committed, letters to the editor ignored.
But it never occurred to me to stop reading. It’s our only local newspaper, after all.
Some things never change. But most do, and The Sun is one of them. For a full rundown on its evolution up to late 2018, check out the link below. The last couple of years have brought concerning setbacks: There are just two print editions a week now, and the editorial staff has turned over again. At least there’s an e‑edition for those who don’t mind reading on a screen.
And now we have a new editor. So please, however you feel about The Sun these days, join me in welcoming Mr. Layton to town. He has a tough job ahead of him. The revolving door at The Sun seems to spin faster every day, and while it appears unlikely we’ll ever have a daily local newspaper again, let’s support ours in whatever form it takes.
Throughout our country, small-town newspapers are collapsing. Let’s not let that happen here. Read The Winchester Sun. Subscribe to it. Advertise in it.
Mr. Layton is asking for our support. Let’s give it to him.
Note: Jann Wenner is the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, the stage on which literary luminaries Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe, Ben Fong-Torres, Patti Smith, and P.J. O’Rourke — as well as iconic portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz — made their first indelible marks on American culture.