DEPARTMENT HEAD GATHERING
Last month the Clifford family hosted a reception and dinner for the longtime Daily Times department heads and it was an emotional gathering.
Together those who attended the dinner had over 400 years of service to the newspaper.
The gathering was a wonderful time to celebrate all that has been accomplished under their leadership but it was also filled with mixed emotions.
Some of these people who played a key role in the ongoing successes of the Daily Times have retired, others have moved on to new opportunities and some are expecting to leave their positions in the coming months as the transition to new ownership at the paper continues.
Those at the session and their years of full-time service were myself, managing editor, with 53; Mark Kuehl, circulation manager, 43; Greg Thrams, production manager, 41; Judy Kluetzman, display advertising manager, 40; Mark Shingler, classified advertising manager, 21; and Lori Uttech, business manager, 13.
In addition the Clifford family members had long affiliations with the newspaper, including Jim Clifford, editor and publisher emeritus, 55; Marg Krueger, feature writer and news staff member, 52; Ralph Krueger, business manager, 37; and Kevin Clifford, editor and publisher, 29.
In his brief comments to those attending Jim thanked everyone for their many contributions to the paper over those many years.
He noted the newspaper industry has changed dramatically during his tenure, but being a small, independent newspaper allowed the changes to be implemented quickly rather than in a time-consuming manner as often had been the case with large group ownership.
He recalled discussions he and myself had with his father, the late John D. Clifford, about purchasing a couple of computers for use in the news department as a way to be more efficient.
John wasn't so sure that was a good move, but in the end he decided to trust our intuition and let us move ahead with the purchases.
As it turned out, the move was the right one, and we're now probably on our fifth or sixth generation of computers in the newspaper, and today they make those first ones look ancient by comparison.
He also reminisced about how the entire leadership team embraced the changes and welcomed the opportunities to new and game-changing technologies, all of which contributed to the success of the paper.
But, in recent years those heady times that most all of the leadership team experienced started to become only a distant memory.
The overwhelming change in retailing, from local stores to the big box stores and then to internet purchases as well as other similar changes, had a profound effect on newspaper advertising, the backbone of any successful publication.
Then, there was the immediacy of the news. People want to know things immediately, as they happen, and that also changed the dynamics.
Newspapers quickly moved into the digital era and today are moving faster and faster in that direction. Quite frankly, that will be a good thing and it will help to ensure that small communities like Watertown will continue to be served by a newspaper.
The Clifford family ended a century of ownership of the Watertown Daily Times back in December and since that time, Adams Publishing Group, the new owner of the paper and more than two dozen other publications in Wisconsin, has been gradually implementing changes and efficiencies that can only come from group ownership.
By pooling and consolidating the resources with neighboring APG newspapers, the Daily Times and many others can and will not only survive but also prosper.
Our dinner was a bittersweet one. On one hand we knew the independent ownership of a newspaper was going the way of the horse and buggy, but at the same time it was the wave of the future in the newspaper business. More efficiency were necessary and they simply could not be possible in an independent setting.
It was the independence of the Daily Times that made so many of our successes possible over the years, but as the publishing environment changed, it was that very independent ownership that was impeding future successes here in Watertown and in dozens of other similar newspapers throughout the state and nation.
It was a difficult pill to swallow but at the same time, we knew it was necessary in this new environment.
Jim thanked everyone at the dinner for their unwavering support over the years, and in response various members of the leadership team expressed their appreciation for all the Clifford family had done in those many years to make the Daily Times one of the best in the state.
After his comments various staff members recounted some of their memories of their years at the paper. In addition to working hard to produce the best possible product for our readers, there were countless good times and many, many laughs. Some of them were recounted at the dinner and they brought smiles and laughter to everyone.
Some pretty zany things can take place when you're working in what was truly a family-like atmosphere.
That gathering marked the end of an era in newspapering here at the Watertown Daily Times and it was fitting that we gathered once more to celebrate the many successes and trailblazing paths we took over those years.
Indeed, it may very well be the last time this group ever assembles together.
There were many others who contributed to the success of the paper over the years and while we won't begin to mention them here, in our over half a century of full-time work at the newspaper we remember many of them with fondness. There were some very special people and there were some characters as well. How could we forget them? As we look back, there were and are loads of good memories.
And looking forward, change is inevitable and it will help to keep a newspaper operating here in Watertown as well as in many other communities in the state.
Our gathering last month was a testament to the many quality people who were part of a great period in Watertown newspaper history.