Today marks my 38th anniversary of working at the Daily News
Today marks my 38th anniversary of working at the Daily News.
I have bored you in the past with stories about life at the newspaper in the “olden” days, so I won’t repeat that sin.
Oh, maybe I will. A little.
I remain astounded by the changes that have taken place in the newspaper industry (and society in general) since 1979. We are living in an age of science fiction where the world arrives at our doorstep – live – 24 hours a day.
In 1979 we had primitive wire feeds on primitive monochromatic computer terminals that connected to a twitchy mainframe in a cold room. Today the storage in our phones exceeds the storage of that mainframe by many factors of bytes.
I started at the Daily News when “cut and paste” literally meant cutting and pasting, and I know I’ve related that anecdote before but you’ll have to suffer it again, because that’s what people my age do.
The world was different then, too. I think people were much more civic-minded and had a better understanding of the basic functionalities of their city, county, court and law enforcement systems than people of today, who seem more selfish and less educated than ever.
In 1979 the music world approached the precipice of a revolution which would save us from the ravages of disco, off-key raspy-voiced folk singers and worst, country music. New Wave and MTV. The music of the ‘80s was the best. THE best.
Fashions were as strange as they are every decade. At times I had a mullet, a rat tail, fingerless gloves, rolled-down socks, rolled-up blue jeans and collarless shirts.
I have witnessed and participated in all of the major recent journalism revolutions. The first I remember was the Design Revolution – in other words, newspapers actually started to give a damn about page design. Then there was the writing revolution, which disposed of the inverted triangle in favor of a conversational approach to storytelling. There was the graphics revolution ushered in by USA Today, the color revolution, the story length revolution ( an 8-inch story was an epic), and finally, and continuing, the ever-evolving digital revolution, which began with digital photos and continued with Photoshop, then pagination, the internet, and finally mobile technology.
I started as a page designer and beat reporter, then became the design editor and a columnist. I redesigned the Daily News in 1986 and I’m proud to say that basic design lasted until 2006. At times I was the city editor, weekend business section editor, Monday Focus editor, features editor, projects editor and whatever else they wanted to throw at me editor.
My crowning achievement as features editor was an insane Food page about hot dogs that had people calling the newspaper for weeks asking for copies. We had a lot of fun with that page.
Then in 2007 editor Pat Rice called me into his office and said, “You can put together those feature sections in your sleep. I want you to become our next online editor. You don’t have to know how to make the machine go BING. Just put stuff on the website.”
All because I designed a tropical weather Myspace page, complete with ethereal music playing in the background.
So I got into this website stuff. Our page was doing OK with about 2.5 million page views per month. Then it went up to 3 million. Then 4. Then 5. And 6. It topped out during Deepwater Horizon with an astonishing 8 million, but if you had added in the mobile views it would have been 10.
And that’s where things stand today. I continue to work on the website, and I love trying to figure out ways to get people to click. Not just click, but click in the tens of thousands.
I love trying to put together projects. Year before last I did a massive project on the monarch butterfly, which nobody read or gave a shit about. I interviewed the top experts in North America and wrote what I felt was a definitive summary of the monarch’s plight. I don’t know if it helped, but I do know I saw more monarchs last year.
Right now I’m the longest-employed person at the Daily News. Some people would see that as a failure – he couldn’t succeed anywhere else so he stayed here. I stayed, yes. Because I love Fort Walton Beach, enjoyed what I was doing, and had a rich off-camera life that satisfied me in many ways.
The future is uncertain but that is the nature of the news business. I have prepared for that uncertainty. At this point all I can do is hope for the best and try to do an exemplary job, even if I’m a crusty old geezer with barnacles on my belt.
The Daily News’ website is alternately No. 2 or No. 1 in the company’s retinue of websites, depending on the month. Not bad, for a tiny paper in the Florida Panhandle, in a company with over 300 newspapers to its name. I am only partly responsible for that success, but at age 62 I’m glad to still be relevant and still be playing a role, whatever that role may be.
Newspaper reporters and editors once ended their stories with a “-30-” which had something to do with the old telegraph system, from what I understand. I learned that while researching reporter Jeff Newell’s obit. I wrote an editorial about Jeff, saying farewell to a respected and honorable journalist who passed after a long battle with cancer.
So I will end this digital note with the hope that in two years I will be telling you about the cut and paste, the monochromatic computer screens, MTV, and all that old crap you don’t care about but still mean so much to me.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .
The afternoon was cold, and Jeff Newell was trembling.
“We get to go flying!” he enthused, rubbing his hands together, his voice rising and falling in a little boy’s sing-song. The freezing wind mattered little. More important was the aging World War II bomber “All American,” a B-24 Liberator of the type that had brought ruin to Hitler’s Third Reich.
The last of its kind, “All American” is maintained by the Collings Foundation a warbirds preservation group in Massachusetts. Mr. Newell was one of three Daily News journalists invited to fly the short hop between Panama City and Crestview.
Later he would write about this flight, and through his story the American wartime experience – and many other things that cannot be put to words – would be passed along to a new generation of Daily News readers.
Which was Mr. Newell’s talent as a journalist: bringing to life the arcane, from matters of history to the complexities of city government to court cases dense as hundred-year-old fruitcake.
In our Fourth Estate world of deadlines and fact-checking, Mr. Newell was a reporter’s reporter – relentless digger who knew what questions to ask and where the answers were hidden. He performed this duty at newspapers across Northwest Florida, from Pensacola to Panama City.
He was honest and fair and dedicated to the relating of facts, a simple ethic that endeared him to readers and sources alike. If you read it in a Jeff Newell story, you knew it was true.
His job never darkened his enthusiasm for life, be it flying on an airplane, playing trumpet in the community band or hamming it up with shortwave radio operators around the world.
This same enthusiasm carried Mr. Newell through the emotional and physical roller coaster of cancer. During the years he waged war with that disease, he displayed a dignity, patience and strength that inspired everyone around him.
Jeff Newell died on July 15, 2001.
Of the World War II veterans who came to see the B-24 “All American” on that 1998 visit to Panama City and Crestview, he wrote”
“They show up for just one more glimpse, searching in the polished aluminum for a reflection of the best days of their lives.”
Mr. Newell was very much like that old airplane: a rugged, reliable classic who got the job done.
Search the pages of this newspaper and we hope you will see a reflection of his character – his hard work, his honesty, his dedication to the craft of journalism. He will not be the last of his kind, but he will always be the best.
In the days when stories were filed by telegraph, it was the practice of reporters to end each transmission with a “30,” indicating the story had come to an end.
It is with fondess, and sadness, that we call an end to Jeff Newell’s time with us. He will be missed.
– 30 –
This editorial was published in the Northwest Florida Daily News in July 2001 and is used with permission.