It was people who made the past 40 years
By Paul Bruun, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 24, 2012
My year-end Outdoors column regularly demands extra preparation.
In the midst came the surprise phone call.
Just in time for the new year, Jackson Hole News&Guide publisher Mike Sellett explained his agreement to sell the business to Kevin and Shelley Olson. This decision, on the tail of the death of co-publisher Liz McCabe in June, left me deflated. Bidding so long to all my newspaper contemporaries at once wasn’t how our era was supposed to end.
So before 2012 fades away allow me time to blow the cobwebs off a few memorable highlights of the last 40 years.
During hunting and fishing vacations from the mid-1960s to early 1970s it was important to check out weekly newspapers along the way. Being from a newspaper family, I found this exploration informative. After several earlier stops at the Jackson Hole Guide I was surprised in 1970 to discover that Jackson had a new publication, the Jackson Hole News.
One evening I visited with the early editors, Virginia Huidekoper and Marc Fisher. The News’ offset sheetfed press was running and I noticed the dazzling abundance of photos enhanced on the bright premium paper.
In October 1972 Guide photographer Bob Doran added my three rolls of 35mm black and white film to the batch he was developing.
Negatives I selected accompanied weekly outdoor columns I typed and mailed to my Florida paper. Doran said it was no extra trouble when I attempted to reimburse the Guide for his efforts. Later I thanked Guide Publisher Fred McCabe for his staff’s generosity. The following March, Fred offered me a job as Guide editor. I began work in early April 1973.
Dedicated to excellence
Fulfilling this editorship was challenging, as the Guide had recently moved into a Glenwood Street location that featured a new three-unit web press as well as the expanded Pioneer Press commercial print shop. Despite the pricey collection of lithography equipment, there wasn’t a file or picture morgue in the building. Advertising recordkeeping and billing was done by luck. A stream of past Guide editors had generated some uncomfortable feelings around town. Gaining trust and respect was an uphill challenge.
Fortunately, we assembled a crew that was dedicated to excellence and gradually internal order enveloped the newspaper operations.
My weekly column, Reel Talk, joined the Sports section. Echo Taylor assumed Circling The Square and Liz McCabe’s feature photo highlighted by a Ruth Carpenter poem topped the second section, above the local interview “A Visit With.”
The Guide’s premium web newsprint would never be as bright as the News stock. So to use the color potential of the speedy web press, master lithographer Jake Strauss often created a two-color cover picture separation for the front page. This demanded the risk of printing the front cover section early so the press could be cleaned for the second section. I would hold my breath on those Wednesday evenings, praying that a fire or other emergency would not occur that would require tearing up the second section to include it.
To facilitate a longer shopping week for grocery advertisers (Fred’s, B&W Market and Jackson Foods) and better election and meeting coverage, both the News and the Guide moved printing nights from Wednesdays to Tuesdays The papers appeared on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays.
As 1973 wore on and when things went well it was a triumph to be at the Rancher imbibing with my staff before Mike Sellett and his News crew showed up. Racing to beat each other to drinks from congenial bartender Rick Schreiber streamlined production for both papers.
During the 1970s finding consistently strong lead stories was a challenge. Ever-present battles over the airport location in Grand Teton National Park, switching to alfalfa pellets instead of hay on the National Elk Refuge, building a traffic bypass road around Jackson, developing more downtown parking, employee housing and building a new sewer treatment plant were constant topics. Fortunately, the effort to create land-use planning for Teton County steadily gained momentum and covering engaged community study groups enhanced news content.
The News and Guide battled for advertisers, readership, Wyoming Press Association awards and being selected as official town and county papers. Residents were fond of saying that weekly newspapers were necessary to confirm what everyone had already learned in the bars. The bars were always busy and the Jackson lifestyle featured an abundance of drinking.
In the fall of 1974 I moved on from my Guide editor position to float trip guiding. The outdoor column continued through 1976. In 1977 I began a 12-year tenure on the Jackson Town Council. Ironically, my weekly food column idea, Exit Eating, began appearing in the Jackson Hole News because Publisher Sellett enjoyed a variety of food subjects.
Despite spending our early acquaintance being fiercely competitive, working with Mike was enjoyable and educational.
In summer 1978 Mike encouraged me to join David K. Whitlock and himself in designing and then editing the Jackson Hole Daily, which ultimately debuted on Dec. 1 of that year. The Daily flourished both with visitors and residents because Jackson was without a consistent source of outside news. Cable TV was minimal, USA Today wasn’t yet created and outside papers always arrived late.
Bruun eats, fishes, writes
Editing the Daily was a rigorous but enjoyable job. The Rev. Dan Abrams soon asked if I would consider relieving him of his weekly task of writing the News’ Outdoors column. Mike agreed to allow his former competitor to deliver dual News pieces, Exit Eating and Outdoors, both of which I enjoyed.
During the period of the Daily and column writing for the News, through fishing and mutual pals I remained in touch with the McCabes. Fred and Liz were the second couple I took float fishing on the Snake in September 1974. Liz was always determined that I return and write for her at the Guide. She often joked that she might have “to buy the News” to accomplish this.
Ironically, in 2002, Liz and I were officially reunited again with the friendly merger of the Jackson Hole Guide and Jackson Hole News.
The period from April 1973 to December 2012 has fulfilled an opportunity to pen stories, columns and editorial contributions for a community that has treated me with exceptional kindness and love. Throughout the variety of jobs it has been a delight to work with the likes of Liz and Fred McCabe, Greg Prugh, Linda Hazen, Jim Miller, Jill Bamburg, Mike Sellett, Al Renneisen, Kevin Olson, Angus Thuermer, Tom Dewell, David Swift, Dava Zucker, Richard Murphy, Brad Boner, Price Chambers, Rich Anderson, Kathleen Godines, Pam Periconi, Jake Strauss, Bev Hofmann, Jim Stanford, Theresa Thomas, Viki Cross, David Lorenzo, Tim Sandlin, Laurie Lacy and Mary Lohius as well as enlightening columnists Bert Raynes, Doreen Tome, Jonathan Schechter, Todd Wilkinson, Therese Metherell, Molly Absolon, Brad Mead and Bru.
Pages of my enriched Jackson newspaper history have become brittle with age. But the information and effort at filling each paragraph will be my treasures forever. From being perennially last in the Easter Teton Pass Race sponsored by the News and Skinny Skis to having the first outdoor column top the Wyoming Press Association sports writing division, being investigated by the FBI for a Cabin Fever section spoof and showing Walter Cronkite around the Guide offices in 1973, nobody can say “thanks” for a better collection of memories than Bruun.
Happy new year.
Paul Bruun writes weekly on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors.