In 30 years on the job, only headlines seem similar

With issues as fresh as today’s news, it’s hard to believe these headlines are from 30-year-old editions of The Everett Herald:

“Ferry problems aren’t bad, builder says.”

“Airport master plan still met by public opposition.”

There also were stories about overcrowding and a lockd

own at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, and about fourth graders in area school districts scoring below the state average on a standardized test of academic skills.

Paine Field and the prison, school performance and ferry construction, these topics were as hot 30 years ago as they are today. We’re still debating the same contentious problems.

How do I know?

On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of my official Herald start date, I went time traveling — by reading The Everett Herald on microfilm from March 2, 1981 through March 31, 1981. That was my first month of full-time work here.

This newspaper was on a hiring spree that year. With the launch of a Sunday paper little more than a month away, my first day on the job was March 2, 1981. Personnel records show my start date as March 1, 1981, but that was a Sunday. I started on a Monday morning. By morning, I mean early.

It was an afternoon newspaper then. As a copy editor, work began at 5:30 a.m.

Readers saw big changes in the spring of 1981. When the Sunday paper started on April 5, 1981, The Everett Herald and its Western Sun edition in south Snohomish County had a name change, becoming The Herald.

If you think you’ve read this column before, it’s not a case of deja vu. In 2007, I wrote a piece noting that I’d been writing this column for a decade.

Oh, but today I’ve been in The Herald newsroom 30 years. The first 10 years were spent on the copy desk, mostly as a wire editor. My memories of those work years are colored by big national and world events.

At the end of my first month, on March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C. Because the paper came out in the afternoon, it wasn’t until the next day that six Herald reporters gathered local reaction to the president’s shooting. Today, local comments on news of that magnitude would likely be on HeraldNet within minutes of it happening.

Other huge stories from my wire editing days were the Jan. 28, 1986, explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and the 1991 Persian Gulf War. From 1991 until 1997, I was The Herald’s features editor.

As much as the work, I think back on many Herald colleagues, almost all of them now gone from our newsroom. It wasn’t all work. In October 1981, a bunch of us copy editors went together to a Rolling Stones concert at Seattle’s Kingdome. The dome was blasted into dust in March 2000.

Only two Herald staff members whose bylines appeared in those March 1981 papers are still here with me. Mike Benbow, now The Herald’s business editor, was in Olympia on March 2, 1981, covering a joint House and Senate Transportation Committee’s hearing on problems with the then-new Issaquah-class ferries. And John McDonald, still a Herald sports writer, covered the Avon Championships women’s tennis event in Seattle the day I began my Herald career.

In earlier days, a loyal worker reaching the three-decade mark might get a gold watch and a pension. Now, veteran employees have an extra job learning to use technology we never saw coming.

I was a summer intern at The Everett Herald in 1978, the year the Best family sold the paper to The Washington Post Co. We used typewriters then. By 1981, the newsroom had clunky computer terminals.

Technology isn’t all that has changed. The 1980 U.S. Census listed Everett’s population as 54,413 people, with 337,720 in Snohomish County. New 2010 Census figures show our population has ballooned to 103,019 in Everett and 713,335 in the county.

In 1981, I rented a two-bedroom Everett apartment for about $300 a month. The place is now a condo.

It was warmer that March of ’81, I do remember that. I started work in khakis and short-sleeved shirts. Sure enough, there on microfilm from March 2, 1981 is a photo taken by the late Jim Leo. Under the headline, “Wintertime takes spring break,” is a picture of a “sun-soaked picnic” on Mukilteo’s beach.

To be honest, it’s all a blur. On deadline, 30 years go by surprisingly fast.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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