Teri Orr: All the news that fits the print… | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: All the news that fits the print…

Teri Orr

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

When Andy Bernhard became publisher of The Park Record- without having graduated from J school – he inherited a editor a little more than six months into the job who had a matching (lack of) journalistic credentials. For the next seven years we would learn from each other how to care for the community treasure of a 100 year old weekly newspaper -the oldest paper in continuous publication west of the Mississippi.

Andy became the publisher during a red-hot winter week. I had been editor for about six months. He came from D.C. and he had previously been selling newspaper ads in Salt Lake after driving a cab in the D.C. area- while working on securing his stock broker license. His brother’s company had bought a newspaper group that included The Park Record. He was asked to step in. He arrived during the week I caused a bit of a firestorm. The first one.

I had written a piece about the sleazy drill teams costumes worn in all the other regions of Region 9 sports except Park City. I had a son playing football, basketball and soccer. My daughter was a cheerleader. I attended most of their events and was dismayed at the outfits the young women (not in Park City) were wearing. One mother from Heber had told me it cost her over $2,000 a year (in the 80’s!) to make sure her daughter had all the sparkles she needed. I may have gone a titch too far in saying their outfits made them look like the only game they were interested in was the oldest one… as seen from the backseat of a dingo-balled Chevy.

The first call Andy took the morning that column appeared was from an irate Jack Dozier, the crusty high school principal and quiet real estate developer.

So young girls and their advisors from all over the state decided to picket me in the parking lot of The Record offices. The local authorities thought they would use the event to stage riot incident training. There were fire engines in the parking lot and men with (unseen) guns on the roof. It was about as overblown as the column had been. I remember Andy being on the phone with his brother, Peter, and asking what he should do and Peter saying- just let it play out. And so it did. We went down to the parking lot and faced the angry mob. One young girl asked if I had ever been in the backseat of a Chevy.

I started to say no, it was a Dodge Rambler, but I held my tongue. 

No sequins were injured in the exchange.

And that’s the way we began. For the next seven action-packed years that’s pretty much how things continued. Things would go along in a natural fashion of births and deaths and city, county, and school board elections. I would write editorials that angered folks and Andy would be forced to defend the paper’s right/ duty to have strong opinions.

We crossed most often over the desires of advertisers who thought their business changes were worthy of news. I remember the first luxury brand hotel insisting the redecorating of their hotel in fine fabrics was a front page story. And they had promised the advertising department big bucks in a long term contract if they made the front page. They did not make the front page. We developed a marketplace section where such soft stories could find a place.

And we were the paper of record. So all kinds of legal notices came to us and if you read those carefully you find nuggets of news. Subdivisions being proposed. School bonds being floated. Bankruptcies on approach. It used to be the old saying in journalism was – most people only appear in the paper twice- when they are born and when they die. I don’t remember when birth announcements stopped being a thing and deaths are now handled by an outside service and you pay by the word to share your loss.

The first reporter I hired in my first month at the paper in 1987 was Sena Taylor. She had just graduated from the J school at the University of Utah. Jan Wilking was the publisher who hired me and though I didn’t figure out until later he was shaping the paper to sell it- he was. He said I could hire whoever I wanted but he asked I interview his friend’s daughter. His friend, was the legendary Sam Taylor who ran the Moab Times independent paper. Sena was smart and eager and I knew she would make me smarter. And she did. She became editor when I left.

The two of us were a lot for Andy. We pushed back at any kind of direction, authority, and reason. Andy knew how to push us to the point we tried to always do our best work. And that work was still on typewriters and then learning those strange box computers. There would be a weekly “story meeting” and Andy would sit with us while each reporter weighed in on the stories we planned for the week. But we were in the news business so the stories we planned often fell on the cutting room floor when real news landed in our laps. There were fires and murders and politics and drug busts.

And then there was the standoff for weeks at the Singer/ Swapp farm in Marion, Utah. It became so large, a national story, CNN sent its first truck to Utah to cover something. Sena wrote a series of brilliant stories about that time that was fused with splinter religious beliefs and the wild west and law enforcement.

Every year when the Utah Press Association awards were held we gathered to see how we stacked up against other papers in the state. And when time after time we came home with fistfuls of first place plaques Andy was proud of each of us and the reputation of the paper. We added color for the first time ever and the front page photo was for the World Cup ski races. Andy helped push for that and he knew -once you added color you didn’t take it back out. It would be an added expense.

When he would come to the door of my office and ask “Do you have a minute?” I knew it was never good. I would go into his office and he would shut the door and tell me how he was getting beat up for yet another front page story I had written. And we spent a long time slugging out what was journalism and what was advertising and how to maintain the integrity of the 100 plus year old paper. I did not make his job easy. And when Sena followed me as editor, she did not either. But we each learned how to stay in our lanes and Andy gave us the space and the grace to do the job in the very best we knew how to do. And he supported us in our failures.

Eventually I left to write a book. Sena left to move back to Moab and work at the family paper there. And Nan Noaker, who I had hired right before I left, eventually became editor for all the years after. She won endless awards and grew the paper in critical ways. She was followed by Bubba Brown who left a few months ago for a job in Salt Lake City after holding the paper together during COVID.

And all that time- all that time- Andy sat at his desk in his office with the unobstructed view of the Park City Ski Area and the mountains. There might still be a bottle in the bottom drawer of that desk. And the same couch is there we all sat on for “conversations” about the shape of the news. Andy had a pretty impossible job and he did it by accepting the “on the job training” that happened every damn day there. He has more than earned time to enjoy his Grands and his wife and unplugging from news and newsmakers. I expect he will find many, many, many more days to find fish -on and off all the Sundays in all the Parks…Godspeed Andy.  

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