Change is in the air: Stanford’s Judith Basin Press losing editor, assistant to retirement

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Former Judith Basin Press Editor Vicky McCray (right) and assistant Jane Hughes show off the cake baked for their retirement open house on Thursday, Dec. 21. A large number of people visited the Press office to wish the pair a happy retirement.

Photo courtesy of News-Argus

 

What does a newspaper editor do? At a small town paper, where budgets are tiny and the pool of trained journalists is minute, the straight answer is: whatever is needed.

Finding the right person, someone willing to shoulder the responsibility of making sure the newspaper goes out week after week after week, is not easy. Saying goodbye to that person is even less so.

But eventually, even a small town newspaper editor deserves to retire – including the editor of the Judith Basin Press, Vicky McCray.

This week marked the end of McCray’s 12 years as editor -- writing, reporting, editing, photographing and laying out the Judith Basin Press – an estimated 624 issues and over 5,000 pages, each of which McCray read, re-read and sometimes re-re-read.

McCray well recalls her introduction to the JB Press (as it is known to insiders): “I had retired from teaching and I was working part time for Wes Gibb’s wife. Wes was the owner of the Press at that time, and his wife published a horse magazine, which I helped edit. One day Wes asked me if I could work two days a week at the Press office.”

At that time, McCray said, full-blown retirement was not on her agenda. In fact, staying home all day was making her nuts.

“You can only clean the bathroom so many times,” she said, laughing.

Working part time at the JB Press provided a much-needed outlet.

“I started out formatting,” McCray said. “It was a great job. I got out of the house and had a little spending money.”

In 2003 the Yellowstone Newspaper group purchased the Press and, eventually, the editorship came up for grabs. McCray, however, was not interested. Or so she thought.

“My husband told me, ‘The job is right up your alley,’” she recalled. “But I was having fun, writing a little and editing a little, still just two days a week. My husband said he thought I should try being the editor, but he also said he knew me well enough to know how I would do it. Intensely. He was right.”

In 2005, McCray took over as editor, with a focus on community news. It was, she said, quite the learning experience. At that point, McCray had been with the Press almost five years, yet there were still things about serving as editor she wasn’t expecting.

“For one thing, up to that time, I wrote on paper. I’m not a computer person. But I had to learn to use a computer because there was no time to write everything out long-hand,” McCray said, adding, “My biggest surprise was the amount of time it takes. You have to go to the meetings and the events in order to write about them. It’s more work than teaching school – at least then we had Christmas vacation. I’ve worked Christmas eves, Christmas days, weekends. If I’m going to put my name on something, I’m going to do it well.”

While hard work is something McCray is used to, there is one thing, in particular, she found a little hard to swallow.

“Whenever someone would tell me ‘no one reads the paper,’ I found it very annoying,” McCray said.

The best part of being a newspaper editor?

“All the people I’ve met,” McCray said, without a second’s hesitation. “It’s been wonderful to feel a part of the Stanford community.”

Initially McCray thought she’d give the Press five years, but year followed year and she found it difficult to let go – until, that is, she began to hear from her granddaughters (McKenzi, age 10, and Miranda, age 7) that “Grandma’s never home.”

When granddaughters speak, grandmothers listen, so Thursday’s paper was the final issue under McCray’s leadership.

What comes next?

“I plan on spending much more time with my granddaughters,” was McCray’s instant response. “I want to take them to the symphony, to summer reading programs, to art classes. I want to be able to help them get those experiences.”

Besides introducing her granddaughters to the arts, McCray wants to try her own hand at one: music.

“I want to learn how to play the cello,” she said. “I don’t know if I am teachable, but I love the cello. It just reverberates in my body when I hear it.”

More reading is also on McCray’s “to do” list, as is travel. She hopes to see Italy’s lake country in what will be her third trip to that country, and she’s always wanted to go to Greece.

Self-improvement is another area McCray plans to focus on, including exercise, and perhaps even a little more writing.

“I always wanted to do a children’s book,” she said.

What it boils down to, McCray said, only half is jest, is this: she’ll only do “things I want to do.”

After investing years in careers such as teaching and newspaper editing, that seems fair.

As for leaving her post as editor, McCray has a word of warning for the community: “You’re not getting rid of me,” she said, explaining she plans to continue serving on the Library board and helping the Judith Arts Society.

“I’ll be around,” she said with a smile.

We certainly hope so.

 

 

 

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