After working for the past four decades as a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, I will be retiring today, as it were.
It was 1970 when I was hired as a paid intern at the Cumberland News after completing my third year of graduate school at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. At the end of August of that year, I started basic army training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Ten years later, I found myself at the Times-News as a part-time sportswriter under esteemed sportswriters J. Suter Kegg and Jimmy Day.
Every Saturday evening for a year, I worked alongside these legends as they laid out the sports pages of The Sunday Times, working under intense pressure of deadlines that always prevented this novice reporter from saying a single word. – unless, of course, you are asked a question. Once the deadline passed, a relaxed atmosphere reigned like a rising morning fog, giving way to pleasant conversations.
Those early days in the second-floor newsroom at Baltimore and Mechanic Streets shared by the Cumberland News and the Cumberland Evening and Sunday Times helped me appreciate the daily pressure of deadlines.
In 1981, I was hired as a full-time local reporter by John J. “Jack” McMullen Jr., the newspaper’s publisher. The hiring took place at the request of Suter Kegg and with the blessing of editor Soupy Lancaster. (I had a notable reference in my brother Jan Alderton, who was a reporter for the Cumberland News working on City Hall’s beat under editor Bernard “Speed” Sitter.)
I will be eternally grateful that Mr. Jack McMullen brought me into the family business just a few years before the business was sold to Thomson Newspapers. In 2000, Thomson sold the company to CNHI, the current owner.
The Cumberland Journal has always been a part of my life. As a youngster, I took up the Denny Clark route delivering around 80 newspapers each weekday for the Sunday and Evening Times. This important work allowed me to keep money in my pocket and required me to do side jobs with clients, including shoveling snow, cleaning furnaces, waxing cars and running errands.
My love of reading and daily reading of my hometown newspaper (where I could see my name printed in a sports page if, as Dapper Dan Giants Little Leaguer, got two hits in a game) kind of taken into account my career path. I spent happy summer days playing ball with the neighborhood kids, riding my bike, delivering newspapers, and reading stacks of books that I personally picked from the South End Library. Reading remains one of my greatest joys.
As a court and public safety reporter and columnist throughout my career, I have maintained good relationships in the community. I always felt an acute obligation to my sources that equaled my obligation to my employer and our readers.
Admittedly, I was a better journalist than a writer. The best writers I’ve known include wordsmiths Mike Burke, Mike Sawyers, and the late Jim Goldsworthy.
Working with the Times-News team has been a wonderful privilege. When big stories broke, newsroom professionals rose to every occasion, creating daily masterpieces for which awards were often presented by the Maryland, Delaware, DC Press Association. Readers of the Cumberland Journal have always been well served by its diligent reporters and editors.
These talented and hardworking men and women eagerly embraced the stories, owned them, and told them to the ever-loyal family of readers. Professional standards were never compromised, and editors stood by their reporters if there was the occasional challenge (“I didn’t say that!”).
Throughout the daily newsgathering activity, there were spontaneous, humorous moments and witty remarks from these colorful newsroom personalities and occasionally interrupted the click-clack of dozens of manual typewriters sit on small metal tables on wheels next to huge, aging wooden desks. . There were also routine staff visits through Mechanic Street to the Galen Bar and nearby fraternal organizations.
Forty-one years later, oh how the profession, and everything else, has changed! From family businesses to business owners, the information-gathering activity continues much the same as it did then, with the notable exception of technology and social media platforms.
Through it all, the Cumberland Times-News kept pace. But there is no print edition on Sunday and Tuesday and a weekend edition is printed on Saturday. Electronic editions are published daily except Sundays.
Local news and local sports reports sell newspapers in small communities. The paper’s survival depends on readers’ demand for local news stories and local sports coverage.
I have had the pleasure of writing many retirement stories over the years for Times-News employees and members of the community. This will be my last contribution in this regard.
So when I retire, I will end my full-time reporting and writing that I have done for the past four decades. However, I will continue to participate in newsgathering on a part-time basis.
To all the members of the community I have interacted with over the years, thank you for your professional work and your indulgence in your dealings with me.
I have been truly worthy of my career as a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News for so many years. It has been my honor.