By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
It is with mixed feelings that The Shinnston News & Harrison County Journal announces that its office on Pike Street in Shinnston will be closing as of Friday, April 28, 2017.
The newspaper itself is NOT closing; business will continue as usual on Monday; however, it will no longer have a presence in the community’s downtown area.
The Shinnston News, as it was formerly called, has existed since 1897, and with the exception of a short period of time when it moved to lower Walnut Street, the News Office has always been run from 223 Pike Street in the downtown area.
William A. Meredith purchased the paper in 1902, and until 1980, it remained a family business, with Mr. Meredith’s daughter Madeline, son Thad, and grandson Jimmy taking over all aspects of running the paper and commercial printing business following Mr. Meredith’s passing. Today, the paper’s editor (Leigh C. Merrifield) is a fourth generation of that same family.
The Shinnston News & Harrison County Journal is now owned by Michael Showell, publisher. His company, Mountain Media, LLC, which is based in Lewisburg, WV, purchased the paper in 2014. He currently owns 12 weekly newspapers in both West Virginia and Virginia. He explained that he, too, has experienced very mixed feelings about closing the downtown office.
“Many of the functions of this newspaper have been managed from our corporate location in Lewisburg since I took ownership – such as payroll, payables and receivables, subscriptions, and pagination … and now advertising sales will also be handled by staff members there as well. For this reason, it is not necessary to maintain the current large office space on Pike Street. However, we look forward to continuing to offer our readers and advertisers their community weekly newspaper for a long time to come,” he said.
For Leigh Merrifield, there is an emotional attachment – not just to the paper but to the building itself on Pike Street. She said, “My great-grandparents (William A. & Eva B. Meredith) called the second floor of this building ‘home’ for a time prior to moving to their residence on Mahlon Street. My grandparents (Claude & Madeline Currey) also lived upstairs for many years, and later my parents (Jim & Jean Currey) brought me home from the hospital and walked the floor with me as an infant there as well before they built a home on East Avenue. So I have a lifetime of memories in this building and of course a certain amount of sadness accompanies leaving it,” Leigh stated. “Never in a million years did I dream that I would someday continue my family’s attachment to The Shinnston News, but it happened! I have been here working from this office since 1996, and in those 21 years, I have loved knowing that I was continuing their legacy. While I will no doubt shed some tears on Friday, at the same time I must remind myself that I am not really leaving the paper; I will continue to do the same tasks I have been doing and still strive to make my family proud. I will just be working from my home.”
Sandy McIntyre joined the News & Journal staff a year and a half ago as an office assistant, responsible for formatting several parts of the paper. She commented, “I have always been fascinated by old buildings and history, so it has been a pleasure to work in this office. I have learned a lot about the newspaper business from my editor and friend Leigh Merrifield, and I look forward to learning more from her. It will just be from a different location.”
Leigh has met many of the staff members in the parent company’s office headquarters in Lewisburg. “They are experienced, very knowledgeable and professional, and I am confident that the advertising personnel there will continue to work well with our advertisers and give them the same personal service they have become accustomed to,” she added.
Circulation responsibilities will still be handled locally as will composing all editorial content. The News & Journal phone line (304-592-1030) and fax line (304-592-0603) will remain the same. Nor will the newspaper’s e-mail address change; please continue to send news items to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until Mr. Showell purchased the newspaper nearly three years ago, staff members manually laid out the paper – a rather tedious and time-consuming procedure that is more or less obsolete in today’s newspaper industry. During the first week of Showell’s ownership, the paper switched over to electronic pagination.
“I always loved the layout process and found it to be comparable to putting the pieces of a puzzle together,” Leigh noted. “But Mr. Showell brought us into the modern era, and within a week, all these digital changes took place without skipping a beat! We look forward once again to making another change … and again, without missing a beat.”
Leigh concluded, “I have recently discovered that organizing a home office space and purging years’ worth of paperwork is not an easy task, but that ordeal is almost behind me now, and I anticipate nothing but smooth sailing after Friday’s move.”