April 23, 2014 - Ex-editor recalls the old days under Big Jim
My name is Linda Weld, and I'm writing from a log cabin in Alaska to roast my dear friend and wonderful mentor, Jim Sherman.
A long time ago, when I was only around 25-years-old, I decided to follow through on a lifelong dream. I had just graduated from Oakland University, and I drove over to Oxford the very next day and asked if I could get a job writing for one of the papers.
There were no openings in editorial, but there was a job working on the typesetter --a big state-of-the-art machine with a tiny little screen that only held about 15 letters, before they scrolled off into the distance.
The typesetter was right next to the window of Jim Sherman's big, glass cage. My back faced him as I typed. Every so often I could feel him looming behind me, looking at us out on the floor.
The editor of The Oxford Leader back then had the air of a small-town lawyer. He was tall, and skinny, and smoked a lot, and raced around the office in a dark rumpled suit. About three days into my typesetting stint -- in a huge uproar -- the editor quit.
After his editor stormed out, Jim Sherman sauntered out of his cage, and said to me: "So you want to write, huh?"
And, that's how I came to get the job as editor of The Oxford Leader.
And, how I got a chance to sit at a huge roll-top desk, and type out acres of stories on a little, black, antique Royal typewriter that dated back to around 1890, and that had keys that stuck when you poked them.
In many ways, Jim Sherman shaped my entire career.
My time with Jim was truly great. I got to work with a guy named Dick Krause -- who edited The Lake Orion Review. Dick actually knew something about "being an editor" and was kind enough to show me how to take photos, and how to do pasteup.
I had not grown up in Michigan. I had grown up overseas. But I did love Oxford. And I especially liked Addison Township.
In Oxford, I loved the parades. They were so midwestern!
I impressed Dick Krause greatly right off the bat. I had arrived at a parade a little late. So I took a grand photo of the entire band marching AWAY from me. I called it, "There Goes The Parade!"
Dick thought this was brilliant. It was early in my career, and I remember Dick telling our boss -- Jim -- that I would really go far. And I recall Jim just shaking his head.
I enjoyed making the annual Gravel Edition of The Oxford Leader.
I went all over the gravel pits, interviewing workers, writing about gravel.
And climbing up into buildings to take photos. Of gravel piles. Of gravel workers sitting in doorways in tin hardhats, drinking coffee. Of gravel pits...
The Gravel Edition got so carried away, that I remember one that was over 50 pages long and chock full of fascinating information about Oxford -- "Gravel Capital Of the World."
That was the day when men were men. I got good at churning out stories about things that represented day-to-day life -- and the men of Oakland County.
Stories about pig farms. Or Eber Baza and his giant pumpkin. I remember running a huge two-page spread on how gravel truck drivers decorated their trucks. One big picture story was titled: "Flashy, Classy. Air-Brushed Chassis."
Jim was a great publisher. Though an unlikely one. He was self-educated, and boisterous. He wore ridiculous plaid golfing pants to work on his "golf days." And, he had the temerity to tell me that -- and listen up, as he was the "boss" -- that I would only be allowed to wear skirts or dresses to work. On my very first day writing for him he informed me I would never be allowed to wear long pants at The Oxford Leader!
This was only the beginning of many, many "discussions" (unquote) that we had, about many, many things.
All I can say is that if you work for Jim Sherman today -- and you are a woman -- and you EVER wear a pair of long pants to work… well you owe something to me!
In the years since I left The Oxford Leader, I have continued in the heritage of small-town newspapers. I have published and run my own small newspaper, in the heartland of Alaska, called The Copper River Country Journal.
Currently, I run an Alaska visitor guide publication company. My husband and I print and distribute four travel guides, which reach half a million visitors every summer.
I am thoroughly grounded at The Leader, though. That's where I got my start, and there is nobody more convinced that small-town journalism is important than I am.
I think of Jim Sherman often -- and I am happy that we talk with each other on the phone several times a year.
I am quite sure we still probably don't agree on anything.
Yet -- my fondness for Jim, and my heartfelt appreciation of his support, his encouragement, his benign neglect, his outrageousness, and his genuine love of journalism and community has carried me a long way.
His big, shaggy head, and his befuddled look remain with me to this day.
You're Roasted, Jim!
Love, and I truly mean it,