That was one of the purposes of last week’s Open House here at the Cleveland Daily Banner.
We turned 160. We threw a party whose key honoree was the Cleveland and Bradley County community and we issued an open invitation.
We even served birthday cake.
And people came ... and came ... and came throughout the full four hours of the informal celebration.
The lively festivity took a unique twist because of its hours. It wasn’t an Open House relegated to late afternoon or evening hours when the building is quieter and calmer. It lasted from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. So at 10 a.m. when our birthday bash began and Banner loyalists began their visits, we were still in full “deadline” mode, meaning that our newsroom and composing departments were cranking out the news and sports pages for that day’s edition.
And the press room was awaiting its turn in the cycle of responsibilities that leads to the publication of a daily newspaper.
The Open House was scheduled around these hours for a reason. We wanted the community — and our faithful readers — to get a good glimpse at how their newspaper is “... put to bed,” a respected old newsprint term older than most publications used to describe the successful printing of another day’s edition.
By the time our doors opened to well-wishers, most of our reporters had completed their writing. But the editing, pagination (page design) and proofing phases were still in full swing. And when the presses began to roll ... er, about 30 minutes late ... many in the local crowd gathered at a safe distance to behold the highlight of any newspaper tour; that is, watching as a blank roll of newsprint (traditionally shipped to us from our neighbor to the north, Resolute Forest Products) evolves into a newspaper.
Prior to the press beginning its daily roll, visitors were given personal tours of our 25th Street facility — which opened in January 1970 — by employees who doubled as guides and who also still had the responsibility of answering ringing telephones and conducting their day-to-day business. In some cases, editors, proofreaders and paginators were talking with drop-in visitors even as they completed their tasks for Friday’s edition.
But that was our intent ... to give our operation a face, to allow our readers the chance to meet and to mingle with some of the employees whose names they knew but whose in-house roles they knew little about.
In short, it was a great time had by all ... by the four-hour flow of visitors and by our employees who shook a lot of hands, who answered countless questions, who shared a few laughs and who even received a few heartwarming hugs as a salute for their job well done.
Who attended our bash? Anyone who wanted to attend.
We greeted elected government officials, some with whom we’ve even sparred over differences in opinion over the years ... on issues ranging from spending to open records laws to operational protocol and to political preferences.
We hosted an untold number of loyal readers, some of whom read our newspaper every day but had never set foot in the front doors of our building.
We visited with business partners and advertising customers who wanted “to get a look” for themselves.
We toured former employees, each of whom had taken their careers in new directions but most of whom had never lost their love for the printed word.
We talked with families whose ages ranged from the very young to the very old and some of those families were the loved ones of our own workers.
We shook the hands of countless well-wishers, many who were well familiar with the layout of our facilities but who just wanted to drop by to say, “Happy Birthday!”
We laughed with longtime acquaintances, shared memories with old friends and reminisced about the good old days with those whose lives have intertwined with our own since the early years when times were simpler and ways were slow.
Some could not attend Friday’s event, but sent along their best wishes by phone, text or messenger.
We thank all who gave us their time and who remembered us by their visit.
No newspaper can stand alone. It takes readers. It requires advertisers.
We are appreciative of both.
Now that we have turned 160 years old, the question could be asked, “Can you last another 160?”
The answer doesn’t lie with us. Such fate will be determined by those who believe in the role of the community newspaper.
We thank those who believe in us.