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Daily Mail's last run

Herald-Mail Co. employees and readers bid farewell to the afternoon newspaper.

Herald-Mail Co. employees and readers bid farewell to the afternoon newspaper.

September 29, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Newspaper employees watched The Daily Mail churn along the press on its farewell run on Friday, the afternoon paper's final glory after 179 years.

They were transfixed by the massive press making a sweet racket that no longer will be part of downtown Hagerstown's midday bustle.

The Daily Mail - a victim of withering circulation for evening newspapers - isn't going away entirely. It will merge with its 134-year-old sibling, The Morning Herald, starting Monday.

The new morning publication, called The Herald-Mail every day, will have all of the same features from the two departing newspapers.

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Yet, the end of the afternoon Daily Mail was momentous for many.

Chief Photographer Kevin Gilbert came in on his day off to see the press run.

"I just felt drawn to it," said Gilbert, who photographed the first Morning Herald press run after the current Herald-Mail building opened in 1979.

Watching through the glass from the lobby, Marlene Russell thought about familiar colleagues from decades past.

"There goes Libbie Powell and David Cottingham and Dick Kelly and some of the compositors," she said out loud as the press whirred.

The front-page headline blared "Thank you, Hagerstown!"

But something else on the front page made Russell - who has 47 years with the paper, longer than any current employee - take notice: An obituary listing for Charles R. "Pete" Jessop, who first hired her, in classified sales.

It was a doubly significant day, too, for Skip Hutzell, whose job has been preparing the newspaper for printing.

Friday was his last day after nearly 41 years with the company.

Laughing about going out the same day as The Daily Mail, Hutzell said, "It got top billing."

"It's almost like watching an old house be torn down ..." he said. "It's just like seeing an old friend leave."

Several copies from the last run were put aside as autographed keepsakes. Publisher John League left the first crisp copy on reporter Marlo Barnhart's desk.

Thirty-eight years ago, Barnhart was hired for The Daily Mail, which used to compete under the same roof as The Morning Herald. In recent years, though, the newsroom reporting staff wrote stories that ran in both papers.

Barnhart said she understood the economics that ended The Daily Mail, but added, "I just hate seeing the product go."

"It feels like a death in the family," former Herald-Mail Publisher James Schurz said by phone.

Schurz, an executive with Schurz Communications Inc., The Herald-Mail's parent company, said he fought for years to keep The Daily Mail alive, always answering calls for its demise with "Not in my lifetime."

"I feel like I'm in mourning," he said.

League agreed that the end of a newspaper is traumatic.

"These newspapers are a little bit of me and a little bit of everybody that ever worked here," he said.

All of the rubber-necking near the press added another challenge to pressroom manager Doug Hoffman's day.

"It was hectic," he said.

For the final edition, the press run was bumped to 12,200, a jump of 1,100 papers.

Hoffman said he was focused on his work, getting the paper printed. But, "as the run winds down, you get a little emotional," he said.

The crew that published the last edition of The Morning Herald a half-day earlier had a similar experience, but without the large crowd of curious employees.

League and Executive Editor Terry Headlee said they're excited about the new weekday Herald-Mail, which debuts Monday.

"One era ends, another begins," League said.

"We start a new run that I hope lasts another 179 years," Headlee said.

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