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The Gazette Celebrates 40 Years of Island News!

Forty years ago this month, the Put-in-Bay Gazette’s inaugural issue appeared on the counter at the grocery store in the old Colonial building downtown Put-in-Bay. The Gazette started with a two-page issue printed on typing paper in an age when there were no computers. In forty years there have been lots of changes. At one time we printed issues on 11 X 17 paper at the Landings, a motel on the island and asked friends over for wine and folding and collating the paper. The first black and white newsprint issues came later, followed multiple-section and full-color issues. Here are some interesting facts about publishing the island newspaper.
Today’s Put-in-Bay Gazette is named after the Put-in-Bay Gazette that was published for three years in the late 1930s “down by Herman’s Bar,” which was in the old Crescent building (now T&J’s Smoke House).

The Put-in-Bay Gazette has only had one price increase in forty years. The first few issues of the paper cost 20 cents, but that was raised to a quarter and has stayed the same ever since because the editors want to keep it a nostalgic bargain. It’s nice to still get a newspaper for a quarter.

When the Gazette first started, much of the island news came in by mail and person-to-person interviews. Now news comes by email and social media. All the news stories had to be typed, not just once by us on the island, but then retyped by people in Sandusky working on cutting-edge, large and expensive compugraphic typesetting machines. Then the editors bought a small Apple Macintosh computer that could do exactly the same thing. The first Mac computer, a laser printer and a copier that could enlarge graphics for ads was about three times the price of what you can buy all that stuff for today, and that’s not adjusted for inflation. When our printer saw what we could do at home instead of in his plant, he was “jaw-dropping” flabbergasted. It was the beginning of a new era in printing the Gazette. When John Schaffner, owner of the Beacon in Port Clinton, saw our new capabilities, he told us we were the “computer technology leader for all other newspapers in Ottawa County.”

One of our first mistakes in publishing was printing an obituary for someone who hadn’t died yet. Another time, Co-editor Jeff surprised Kendra on her 50th birthday with a tongue-in-cheek obituary article that never said she died. However, some relatives sent Kendra’s mother a condolence card.

In the early days of publishing, every photo had to be specially prepared for printing and was very expensive and time consuming. We had to take real photos with a film camera and go to the mainland to have them developed at One Hour Printing in the Sandusky Mall. Once back on the island, the best were picked and sized for the layout. Then the pictures went to the printing plant in Sandusky and were rephotographed and made into a dot pattern for printing. We had no way to change a photo. With today’s digital photos, we can improve and even change photos almost instantly.

We find it strange that our little newspaper racks get bent up and need to be repaired or replaced. Does someone sit on them or what?

The Gazette’s associate editor, Jeff Koehler, once asked a fellow Councilman at a Village Council meeting, “Where did you hear that?” The answer was, “I read it in the Gazette!” That was somewhat embarrassing to say the least.
We have only missed one print deadline in forty years. We realized we were a full day behind schedule and didn’t know what we were going to do. The phone rang and it was the printing plant. The printing press had broken down and they wouldn’t be able to print us until the next day. Phew! Saved by the bell!

We came close to missing another deadline when our computer went out after a lightning strike and we lost a nearly completed issue. We had printed out proof sheets immediately before the computer crash and ended up cobbling an issue together at the very last minute. No one seemed to notice the difference when all was said and done.

Everyone seems to enjoy the April Fools issues. Our first April Fool issue reported that Parker’s Garage, the island gas station, was going to be turned into a McDonald’s. You’d have thought the world was ending from the feedback we got. You’d be surprised at how many people have called to ask if something we wrote about was true or not. We, however, weren’t the only ones doing the fooling. We returned from a Florida vacation one spring and found a group of islanders had printed a fake Gazette that was on the newsstand.

Among the craziest things that happened was when we printed one of the first color Christmas issues. We had to put the final touches on the paper at the printing plant the night before we printed. When we got to the mainland and started working on it, we realized that we forgot to bring what we needed to complete the issue. The last ferry had run and the last plane had flown, but pilot Dairy Air Bob came to our rescue and made a special afer-dark flight to Sandusky with what we had left behind. We were able to put the paper together, but in the haste and confusion, the red Christmas cardinal in one of the ads came out green. Oops!

We can’t forget to tell you about “Brian the Intern.” Brian Cultice came to us from Bowling Green State University with the technical background and design experience we lacked to enter the modern-day age of printing a newspaper. Now, he has been an integral part of the Gazette for more than a decade. In the course of that first summer, his advisor came to the island to see our operation and how he was doing. The advisor arrived and we all sat on our front porch. Brian was concerned about not having enough hours and other things to satisfy the internship requirements, but the advisor could have cared less. All he did was sit and look out over the harbor and talk about the great view! Needless to say, Brian passed with flying colors. And by the way, we still call Brian, “Brian the Intern.”

Over the course of forty years the Gazette has grown from Kendra and a card table to an expanded operation. Jeff and Kendra’s son Barry helps deliver papers and take photos, and his wife Phoebe is our long-standing copy editor and billing manager. Last summer, Brian took over putting together the monthly layout of the Gazette so Jeff could “semi-retire.” They work well together, especially since Brian can now get all the winter news when Jeff and Kendra spend time in the Florida sunshine.

We’d like to say thank you to all the helpers, readers, proofreaders, islanders, advertisers, employees, summer people, critics, subscribers, columnists, interested parties, babysitters, family, friends and photographers for forty very happy years of the Put-in-Bay Gazette. May it go on for at least another forty years or more!

Looking Back

Forty years ago this month, I sat alone at a card table in my living room until 4 a.m. putting together the first issue of the Put-in-Bay Gazette. I used a rudimentary typewriter and a few sheets of press-on letters to accomplish this task. A few hours after 4 a.m., I was on my way to Fast Print in Sandusky to print two hundred copies of that tiny one-and-a-half page paper. The first issue was distributed for free at the grocery store in the Colonial.

Forty years later, with the help of technology, we no longer have to burn the midnight oil on deadline nights and the card table has given way to three home offices. Also, thanks to computers, our layout equipment is more sophisticated than press-on letters.

The paper continues to be published for two reasons. I promised in the Dec. 1980 issue that I would print “a monthly island paper.” Secondly, you readers would not let us quit. You kept asking for the paper each month at the grocery store, and now several other locations on and off the island. So our original promise, coupled with the fact that you seemed to like the paper, was the incentive we needed to keep printing each month.

The Gazette had no fancy beginnings. We did not plan to begin this paper months in advance. We did no demographic or advertising studies. We had no readership surveys. I simply had the dream of an island paper and more or less on a whim put it together one evening.

My husband Jeff’s involvement in the paper is another story. Jeff went to sleep early on the first deadline night December 1980. At that time the paper was my idea. However, since that first issue, with the exception of some amazing columnists over the years, Jeff has written almost all the copy for each subsequent issue. I’m sure that if he had known what he was getting himself into with my “Island Paper” dream, that he would have balked.

...Thanks Jeff...and thanks supporters...

Love, Kendra

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