By Craig Hastings
Who works at the same job for over 50 years and can honestly say they enjoyed going to work most everyday of those fifty years? Who stays working at the same job for years after reaching and far exceeding their ability to retire? My Mom. After 50 plus years in the newspaper business first with my dad and then with her sons after dad passed away in 1996. In the mid 2000s the paper (Review) was sold to Downstate News Group from Southern Illinois and three years later sold by that company to The Champaign News-Gazette. Mom continued to work for Downstate News Group up until the paper (Review) sold to The News-Gazette. Personnel changes were made after the acquisition by The Gazette and Mom’s position was dissolved.
Sitting home with a burning desire to jump back in the ink, Mom came to me and said, “Hey, I have an idea.” Well I quickly responded to her that I thought she was out of her mind. Why at age 74 would she want to do anything more than sit at home with her cats and enjoy her golden years? Not only this, but I had been away from the newspaper game for 26 years. Brother Randy was well into his real estate career, and brother Greg had been doing his own thing in the job printing market for 30-plus years, which left him no time to help out. On her first request I said “No.” A few weeks later she was back at my home talking about her plan again. I had since learned that the fix for my right shoulder was a surgery and that would pause my police officer career for six months.
Soooo…this time I said, “Why not.” This began a flurry of information gathering, personnel acquisitions, and strategic planning. Not only were we a brand new upstart, but we faced a formidable competitor being The News-Gazette now owning and operating The Tuscola Review. So what do we name our newest paper and ink town crier? I know, I know, a town crier is supposed to be an officer of the court screaming notices in the street, but go with me on this. We do the same but do it on paper. I wanted a name that citizens in Tuscola would immediately relate to as their own, but at the same time careful not to tread to close to the Review name.
At this point I had talked Colleen into joining us. Colleen was my “checkmate” move to best the competition. Unbeknownst to me at the time I had also managed to acquire Clyde, salesperson, and Michelle, graphic designer and pagination expert, (builds the pages before they go to print). These two people were guided my direction by the heavens for sure and still with us. Jerry, Jeanne, and Scott were back in the game and on this same team they were once a part. So what do we name our team?
It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did but, I remember all too well when and why my dad bought The Tuscola Journal in the 70s and closed it soon after. We already had the archives, the name was Tuscola specific, and many people remember the name from the past, so why not and the rest is history! Until we could move back into our old digs at 115 West Sale Street we operated out of a weight room and shared a desk with Greg in his printing facility at 111 West Sale Street. Yes, right next door to The Gazette and in buildings we owned! It was crowded for sure, but we made it work. I was learning as I went after being away for some 26 years. The business operation logistics came back quickly, and I was learning by watching our competitor. I think in about three years from our opening, The News Gazette’s, (The Tuscola Review), Board of Directors decided to venture into other, more profitable, newspaper ventures and retire The Review. This was a memorable day for me when I learned of their decision. I was carrying their weight on my shoulders, and it was making not only my legs weary but also my mind. I was spent.
So what’s the point of all this telling? My mother and I have sold our interest of ownership in both our Tuscola Journal and Tri-County Journal newspapers. Hastings Publications is no more as of 2 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2017. A project that started in March of 2006 with a life expectancy of five to six years for us is now almost 11 years old. Mom will be 84 in November, and it’s time for her to stop the fast pace, nonstop and furry of newspaper ownership and just enjoy her time without the stress. This is a very difficult thing for her and me to do, and I will, more than mom, miss the rat race a newspaper(s) brings to bear. We kept going because of the love of the business. It’s in our blood I guess is best how to describe our attachment.
Better Newspapers Inc. has purchased the assets, abilities, rights, etc., along with mom’s and my own allegiance to them to operate The Tuscola Journal and Tri County Journal. Where I didn’t believe Downstate News Group was a good fit for Tuscola; I do truly believe Better Newspapers Inc. will be. I don’t think any of you will see change in the foundation of the papers, but I believe you will see favorable expansion and addition to the content of both. I think what Better Newspapers affords to our publications will allow for a more upscale, updated, and expanded product you the readers will be anxious to receive each week. Better Newspapers is a progressive company that has been around for a long time and consists of many other very successful news/advertising publications.
In the short time from the sale to this writing I have been bombarded with the same question…”Will you still be writing your column?” Yes I will. I am staying on board and will continue to write not only my column but other assignments that come my way. I’m not ready to make a clean break just yet. As a matter of fact, when/if I finally retire from my position as Police Chief I may ask to become more involved in the operation of the Better Newspapers group. When you see me tell me what you think, and I’ll pass it on. My family loves this community and will always want an avenue to express ourselves and make Tuscola a better place to live. Thank you for your 50 plus years of loyalty to our family newspaper operations. And me; my own ink well hasn’t dried up, and I’m not done yet so keep reading!!!