Longtime newspaper employee retiring after 45 years

By Jeff Baughan

Special to the Times

PARKERSBURG — For 45 years, Sharon Meyer has reported to work at The Marietta Times and The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Forty-five years she has reported to work with a job title.

This week she will show up at 8 a.m. for work in the advertising department.

She has worn many hats in that time, starting with answering telephones for The Marietta Times as a cooperative office education student at the Washington County Career Center to her current title as an account executive. It’s her latest and last title with the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

On April 2, she begins a new occupation, retired.

“I started June 8, 1973, at The Times and I got the job through the business machines class at the center,” she said. “I was parttime in the business office and then was moved to the composing room after the business office ran out of things for me to do. My job ended in the fall when the new COE student started and I sat home for two weeks wondering what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”

Meyer, who is a 1974 graduate of the career center, was nearing the end of the two-week break when she got a knock at her door.

“Max Carr, who was The Times’ production director, came to my house and asked me to come back as a full time member of the composing room,” she said.

She paused, then added, “I think that has been the biggest change over the course of the 45 years; the advance of technology. It’s come a long way since cutting and pasting.”

In 1983, Meyer became composing room manager. It was a big change for her and all those in the composing room.

Just about all the composing room was comprised of men.

“Most of the department was men who had been there since before I was born. Most were old linotype workers. Now computers are moving into the building,” Meyer said. “They weren’t familiar with computers and I was, so….”

And the changes have continued to come.

“I didn’t think I would ever see pagination. I heard the talk about it but never thought I would see it,” she said.

“Then I never thought I would see computer-to-plate, but we have it here. I knew the trouble it took to get a full-color ad, to get a four-color picture and I knew the number of people it took to get that done. Now, it’s one person laying out a page on a computer, pushing a button and sending it to a plate maker.”

Meyer has seen a lot of newspaper pages come and go. She has also seen front pages get torn apart with late-breaking events.

“Nationally, it was 9-11 and the Challenger explosion because it happened during the day when I was in the office,” she said. “Locally, it was the collapse of the cooling tower at Willow Island and the Shell plant explosion. I know those stories are what affected me the most.

“The closer you are to the events, the more it will affect you,” she said.

“And at that time, you were getting so much information, sometimes all of it didn’t make it into the paper.”

In 2000, Meyer received a President’s Ring as one of the top 10 production department’s within the Gannett newspaper chain. The next year, Meyer came to Parkersburg as its commercial print coordinator. She remained there until 2016 when she became the production director before accepting her current position.

Despite all the technological changes within the digital age, Meyer thinks the actual, physical newspaper will always be around.

“You can change digital ads,” she said. “You can change things on a website by hacking, hijacking digital content. You can’t hijack the newspaper. The statement was, still is, ‘it’s not on the record until it’s in the newspaper.'”

There are ‘no big retirement plans’ for Meyer, who said the plans do include “traveling to New England with my husband, Gary. Put the Harley on a trailer and go to New England. Then hop on and just go.”

While Meyer said she won’t miss being in the office at 8 a.m., what she will miss the most “are the people I work with,” she said. “I literally cried the whole day when I left The Times. Now, I will do the same when I leave here.”