‘I’ve seen some pretty amazing things during my time with NNA’

Dec 27, 2018

By Teri Saylor
Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary
If you have been affiliated with NNA over the past 33 years, it is likely you know Stan Schwartz—or at least you know his name. Stan is the man who has patrolled conferences and press outings, camera in hand, capturing award-winning moments, photo ops with politicians, passing of presidential gavels, speeches, good times and the occasional silliness that comes with reunions of longtime friends and associates at conventions. When Stan first started working at Pub Aux as a young intern in 1985, the publication came out twice a month before switching over to monthly in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, over the course of his career, Stan has shepherded more than 500 issues of Pub Aux, chock-full of news about community newspapers, into your offices for the past three decades.
NNA is going through some changes, and some belt-tightening. Publishers’ Auxiliary is changing too, and Stan is moving on to new adventures. He shares some memories of his career with NNA and some thoughts about community newspapers.

When you were in college, what were your career goals?
My goal was to work at a newspaper. I was in high school during Watergate and was fascinated by what was taking place in Washington. I wanted to start a small publication as a reporter and work my way up to an editor position.
Why did you choose a career in journalism and trade association management?
Originally, I wanted a career in law enforcement. I joined the U.S. Marines and became a military policeman, with the goal of one day joining a civilian department. But a few years in, I realized it wasn’t the career path I wanted. I did have a knack for writing police reports and a thirst for digging down to the real story. Everyone had their own side to a story, but somewhere in there was the truth. I figured those skills would translate nicely to journalism. Association management came along quite by accident. I thought I’d finish my journalism degree in four years, but during my last academic counseling session, I learned that I needed one more science course with a lab. I enrolled for another semester and sought out the office that listed all the internships in the Washington, DC, area. I applied to a bunch, but the editors at Publishers’ Auxiliary offered me a spot first.
When did you start working at Pub Aux and NNA?
I started working at Pub Aux in January of 1985 as an intern. When my internship was up and I graduated that spring from the University of Maryland, Chuck Holahan, the managing editor at that time, offered to let me keep working part time until I found job. I was getting married that summer, and thought it was a pretty good offer. About two months after that, the assistant editor, Eric Blum, was offered a position back at the newspaper group he had come from in southern Maryland. Holahan and the Pub Aux General Manager Bo Smith asked if I would step into Blum’s role as assistant editor. I was happy to do so.
What kept you at Publishers’ Auxiliary for most of your career?
I realized early on how valuable Pub Aux was to NNA members. A lot of the smaller operations were out there every day of every week—mom and pop operations working 60, 70, sometimes 90 hours a week to get out their publications. They didn’t have time or a lot of extra revenue to seek out training at conventions or from outside contractors that specialized in helping newspapers. Over the years, many publishers have told me how much the information they found in the pages of Pub Aux meant to them. Some even said that without it, they might not have survived.
How many times did you move the office?
A bunch of times. The first was in the mid-90s when we moved from the office on K Street to a location across the Potomac River in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, VA. We were at that location for a few more years, before moving a little farther out to the Ballston area. We were there when NNA faced a true financial crisis after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, forced us to cancel that year’s convention. The University of Missouri’s Journalism School put in the winning bid to manage NNA. I hired a couple of local guys, and we loaded up all of NNA’s documents and some furniture onto a rental truck, which I drove out to Columbia, MO. I was the only one on staff at that time to make the transition to Missouri. The rest of the Missouri staff were hired on site by the university. As part of the deal, I joined the adjunct staff of the journalism school and taught the news editing class. Eight years later, we moved off campus to a little building just down the street. That’s when American PressWorks, run by Tonda Rush and Carol Pierce, took over the management contract for the association. When that contract ended five years later, I packed up the office once more for its move to Springfield, IL. Again, I was the only one on staff to make that transition. IPA allowed me to stay in the Columbia, MO, area and work remotely to produce Pub Aux.
Can you recall when you noticed newspapers and news organizations were changing? What did you think about that?
The biggest change came after the internet became mainstream. It was easier to produce newspapers when everything was electronic, but it caused a fundamental shift in who had control over news distribution. It also left a lot of newspapers trying to figure out how to make this new technology work for them. One thing they knew—it costs a lot to maintain a quality news organization, and giving away the news was not sustainable.
What is your favorite part of your job description—what do you enjoy doing most?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. And with that, interviewing NNA members for stories for Pub Aux. But as more Pub Aux jobs were consolidated into my position, I had to do more admin work.
What will you miss the most?
I think I will miss the interactions I’ve had with NNA members during the more than 30 conventions I’ve attended over the years. What a fascinating group of people. Few of them ever minced words.
What are some of your favorite Pub Aux stories about newspapers?
My favorite stories are the ones where our members overcome some extreme disasters to continue publishing in order to keep their readers informed about what’s going on.
What have you learned about community newspapers over the years you have worked at NNA?
When I first started, I thought most of our members were fire-in-the-belly liberal Democrats. I was wrong. Most were Republicans, but that fire to reveal the truth was there all the same.
How has Publishers’ Auxiliary changed over the years?
I think Pub Aux has changed to reflect what the NNA members have gone through.
Describe why Pub Aux has been important to NNA and to community newspapers.
Pub Aux has been the primary vehicle for reaching NNA members since 1964 when the association bought the publication. Its importance comes in the form of the columnists who, as experts in their various fields, have provided invaluable information to NNA members to help them run their operations better.
What are some of your most memorable moments at NNA?
That first year, when I attended the 100th anniversary convention in Minneapolis. We had a huge turnout—maybe 800 attendees. There was a working press on the trade show floor. And I met Max Heath for the first time. We started the flag ceremony tradition that convention, too. There were also the receptions NNA hosted during the Government Affairs Conference, some at the White House, some in the Library of Congress’ Madison Building.
Who are some of the unsung heroes you have encountered along the way?
The unsung heroes are all of our members; the ones who have always heeded the call to reach out to their representatives when NNA has asked for help when legislation or postal issues have threatened the welfare of all newspapers.
How about memorable characters?
Gosh, there have been so many. There was one, whose name I don’t remember, I met during my first GAC. I was sitting across from him on one of the buses we used to move members around town. He was sitting with his wife. They were from upstate New York. He asked what I did. I was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and gushed that I was the new assistant editor at Pub Aux. Without hesitation, he asked when I was going to get a real job in journalism. I needed a spatula to get my jaw off the floor.
Who are some specific people in newspapers who have passed on that you miss?
It’s always sad when we lose our members. For many years when I would send out notices to NNA’s past presidents about the passing of one of their number, Jim Cornwell would send me a note to remind me that he was the oldest living NNA president. It truly hurt when I learned he died in 2018. There were several former Pub Aux columnists who have passed over the years. Red Gibson, who wrote the “Writing With Precision” column. There was Dan Lionel, who wrote about classifieds. One of the saddest was when Ed Arnold died. He was considered the dean of modern newspaper design.
Who have you looked up to along the way? Any mentors?
A lot of our NNA presidents have impressed me. One in particular was R. Jack Fishman. When he became president, he came to talk with the NNA staff. He regaled us about the time he first took over as owner of his newspaper operation in Morristown, TN. He gathered the entire staff to introduce himself and his vision for the company. Toward the end of the meeting, he asked if anyone had a question. One guy raised his hand. Fishman pointed at the man and said, “You’re fired.” He then asked if anyone else had a question. A second man raised his hand. Fishman pointed at him as well and said, “You’re fired.” After the meeting broke up, Fishman said he pulled his second in command aside and told him to hire back the first guy who raised his hand—but not to bother with the second one. Fishman, like most of our members, did not suffer fools. Another is Pub Aux columnist, Ken Blum. He was writing his Black Ink column when I started at Pub Aux, and he’s still contributing beneficial information for NNA members.
Describe your growing up years.
I grew up in the Maryland suburbs, just over the DC line. My dad and his brother owned and operated two camera stores downtown. He worked six days a week, and on some Saturdays, I would go with him and then walk up to the various Smithsonian museums to spend hours visiting the past.
If you could have dinner with three people, past or present, dead or alive, who would they be?
I would like to sit down with NNA’s founder, Benjamin Herbert Briggs; publisher and first postmaster Benjamin Franklin; and author Kurt Vonnegut.
Do you read newspapers online or in print, or both?
I prefer to read my newspapers in print. But will look at them online if I have to.
Name one aspect of yourself newspaper publishers would be surprised to know.
In my early years with NNA, I still competed in NASKA Triple-A karate tournaments. I fought as a middleweight. I had to stop after a fight in Atlanta when I suffered a bad concussion.
If you could travel back in time to your early career days, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself that I was on the right path.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I like to hike and bike.
What brings you joy in life?
Being with family. And being able to write.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure. I’m hoping for a “real” newspaper job. I’m sure there’s one or two publications out there that can use a seasoned editor. I said seasoned, not old.

 Colleagues call Schwartz kind, hard-working and effective

Some of Stan’s colleagues and NNA leadership describe some of Stan Schwartz’s contributions to the association and to community newspapers.

Tonda Rush, NNA’s director of public policy and general counsel, a mainstay for the association, who has served two rounds as its CEO:
When I first met Stan, he was in a den in the back of the NNA suite of offices surrounded by pasting machines, gooey carpets that had been saturated with developing fluid and clouds of cigarette smoke. His office window looked out on an alley, and his next-door neighbor was our tenant, who used to run the CIA. Somehow, Stan just seemed right in place with our quirky crowd—got the job done and ignored all the distractions. He and his colleagues put out a newspaper twice a month. They had to paste up flats and race to the bus or the airport to get the material to our printer in Kentucky. To my amazement, no one ever lost their driver’s license for speeding—even though it seemed like we were always waiting for that last column to come in and daring the DC traffic to stop us from making our connection. Stan was always of good cheer, doing strong writing and paying a lot of attention to the ways community newspapers were serving their readers. Over the years, when NNA has moved, changed, adapted and reinvented itself, Stan has been there, the steady rock in a tossing sea that somehow made us all know that we would survive and carry on. We found out during the annual NNA flag ceremony that he could bellow like a Marine sergeant as he assembled the unruly parade of flag bearers, and then turn around and write a sensitive story that made us proud of our industry. We are fortunate to have been able to work with such a leader and hope the next phase of his life is rich and rewarding.

Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier, Campbellsport News, Kewaskum Statesman of Mayville, WI, and president of the National Newspaper Association:
Stan is a part of the institution of NNA. He is dependable, friendly, and a kind-hearted person who does really care. When I started working on the Vietnam Faces project—to collect photos for all of the casualties on the Vietnam wall—he jumped right in to help me. He even went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund with Robert M. Williams Jr. and me to get NNA going with the project. With his help, NNA made a huge difference. He is like so many of the people who have worked decades at community newspaper—he is just part of it. I will miss him. His work at Pub Aux will benefit the industry for decades to come. We wish him well as he moves to the next phase of his work.
Matt Adelman, publisher, Douglas Budget/Glenrock Independent of Douglas, WY, and vice president of the National Newspaper Association:
As an NNA leader for a number of years, I know well the intimidation of looking out at the audience at our conventions and realizing how much responsibility we have to support the hopes and livelihoods of thousands of communities and their newspapers. But as we chart our course, we have been able to depend upon Stan to show us the best and brightest of the industry, and to help us feel connected to one another. It can be a lonely business, and Stan understands us and our missions. We have been fortunate to have such a loyal editor in charge of our industry newspaper.

Max Heath of Shelbyville, KY, retired from Landmark Community Newspapers and NNA’s postal expert:
Stan is one the most patient and kind editors I have ever known, as he has put up with editing my Postal Tips column for more than 30 years. That involved often pushing deadlines for more edits and adds. His good humor under pressure has always been appreciated. He always takes industry tips and turns them into gems about our members and industry. I for one will miss him greatly. He truly is a “general factotum,” as my late father described himself as an industry generalist.