(12/02/2018)

A young Mary Ann Barrows in front of
Chronicle office, where she spent 40 years

By Bob Weaver

Today I thought about my friend, the late Calhoun Chronicle editor Mary Ann Barrows, after having received some "Ya got it all wrong" calls and e-mails about a Hur Herald article.

I also thought about a poll that said the worst or worst respected jobs in the USA include used car salesmen, politicians and reporters.

I have qualified for two of the three.

Now it has been simplified with "fake news."

In the USA, most of the news is distributed by only five corporations. At one time TV networks had their news departments, now news is under their entertainment divisions, driven by ratings.

The business monopoly practice of media consolidation reduced the breadth and the depth of the journalism practiced and provided for the information to the public.

In the early days of the Herald, Mary Ann joked, "You've really put Hur on the map, but you will likely suffer a lot of dislike from the public. I had to get a really tough skin."

I have. As years have gone by, the complaints have gotten louder, or reference is made to the "news" on Facebook.

Mary Ann often told me about outraged customers who walked to the office to cancel their subscriptions on Monday morning, including a member of the school board.

She asked the man if he had been misquoted, stating she would be happy to make a correction. "It's not that," he said. "You're a horse's ass", after which he left to stick his head back in the office, saying "Besides, you're a communist."

Unfortunately, readers can't cancel Herald subscriptions because it's free.

Despite a large readership, only a few dedicated supporters donate to keep it going during the annual fundraiser.

Caught in a massive media and entertainment explosion, people just don't donate to things that are free, and have come to expect such will always be there.

I've often thought if the complainers would just send a $1.

Most US polls now say that about 60% get some of their "news" from Facebook.

A caller to the Hur Herald was upset because their name and charges appeared in the magistrate's report, and another outraged about their being charged with domestic violence and possessing drugs, the story was taken directly from a criminal complaint.

Other upset callers sometimes would say, "I thought we were friends," whiles others made lengthy comments on what was wrong with the Herald (or what was wrong with me).

More often they they were "hiring a lawyer."

Regarding our "Ya gotta it all wrong" calls, I would tell them that "I just reported it from the record and official sources."

"You need to call the people who complained on you and the police who filed the charges," I suggested, "They might have got it all wrong."

More often than not, it is "kill the messenger."

Often when people call not wanting their name used, I reminded them of not making exceptions, saying I've published my own name when charges have been brought against me, more often for taking photos of plain view public incidents.

The WV State Police, in earlier days, were displeased about photographing accidents and crime scenes, although such is legally permitted from public-right-of-way by anyone, and I have been arrested and in one case with my camera confiscated.

Individuals often call to ask their divorce not be published, but one individual requested their marriage not be published in the monthly report. Go figure.

Over the years, while covering accidents, fires or other incidents, a number of folks have produced a gun, expressing their displeasure at my presence.

At one time, folks discontented over a published story, started an Internet web site called "Up Yours Weaver," while others complained we do not use anonymous blogging after each story for comment.

A few times we received death threats, in one case over photographing a really over-loaded logging truck, another reader was upset because his son was the subject of a controversial story and threatened to kill.

My appreciation has grown for long-timers like Mary Ann Barrows, who dutifully reported the activity of the county for 40 years.

I talked with long-time reporter Bob Aaron (WCHS-TV) who was beat-up with his own equipment while filming alleged starving animals from a Clay County highway. Months later he still has a swollen leg.

Perhaps the most troublesome part of doing the Herald over the years has been poor Internet access.

We are now paying $1,200-$1,600 annually for satellite "broadband," which has yet to measure up.

Oh well! We do live in the backwoods.

A dutiful "slave" in putting it together every night for over 20 years was Dianne Weaver, who used to say while trying to upload a photo, she would cook supper and do a load of clothes, while waiting for the upload.

She was faithful during Animal Alert, reconnecting hundreds of pets with their owners or finding homes for them.

The most rewarding part?

Doing stories on stalwart Calhoun men and women, who do have moving stories to tell and creating a massive archives of the life and times of Sunny Cal.

ODE TO MARY ANN BARROWS

A seasoned newspaper man, Olin Barrows (left) bought
the Chronicle in 1945, and after his death in 1975,
was edited and publish by wife Mary Ann (right)

It would be hard to imagine the lines of type Mary Ann composed, read and forgotten by most.

I once joked with her about hanging tough for 40 years, and she replied, "I stayed sober," alluding that many old-time newspaper owners and editors imbibed, with a litany of tales about the escapades of former Chronicle publishers.

Mary Ann and her husband Olin came to Calhoun in 1945. "We didn't own an automobile, house, or furniture, and our $1500 nest egg had been depleted by $500 with the down payment for the Chronicle."

She said to further complicate things, she was six months pregnant.

Mary Ann had been an Army wife, she and her husband Olin lived in several states, her husband worked for newspapers. She told of living in a "refined chicken coup" during the war, to be close to her beloved husband.

"It was a pleasant surprise that we were made welcome in Calhoun." she said. To become connected to the county, Olin Barrows went door-to-door to meet people, including visiting my parents home at Hur.

Her son David said his recollections of the Chronicle was the laborious work it took to put the paper together every week, often 60 hours.

Mary Ann said a number of local people got printer's blood in their veins, recalling Gaylen Duskey, making him the Sports Editor when he was in the 9th grade. Obviously Gaylen never got over it.

The late Barbara Anderson said, "Mary Ann has been a blessing to me, her friendship, feisty independence and hard work. Beyond her public life, she was a humble person who shared her love of music and literature with husband Olin, and quietly clung to the Calhoun community."

Former Chronicle employee Jackie Robinson treasures
her 1927 Royal typewriter used in the Chronicle
office through the 1970s, a gift from Barrows

Jackie Robinson of Russet worked at the Chronicle in the 1970s with Mary Ann for over ten years. "She was a gracious woman, one of the hardest working women I've ever known," she said.

"During those early years she had to deal with Linotype machines, hot lead and a giant printing press to make the paper," Jackie said.

"She was devoted to the community to make things better, and volunteered for dozens of civic projects, including the editing of the books published by the Calhoun Historical Society."

"She did not want credit for her hard work," Robinson said.

In her final years, she met almost daily for lunch with her friends - "The Silver Girls" in a Grantsville restaurant The aging women preferred not to be called "Golden Girls."

"I want you to be sure and come to my funeral," Mary Ann told me one day. "You're not planning on dying right away," I asked. "No, but when you've been in the newspaper business as long as I have, I don't expect many to show up."

"I'll be there," I said.

"Maybe you could say a few good words," she said. "You're good at it." I did.

During the early days of doing the Hur Herald, Mary Ann told me, "If you keep doing the Hur Herald, you might have a couple people come to your funeral."

Mary Ann was a grand, hardworking woman, who passed in 2002 at age 84.

With the Herald in its 22th year, we plan on continuing to use sources for news stories, write stories about some of Calhoun's gracious citizens, recall their pioneer spirit and publish items that are important to our citizens.

That's providing we can keep financing it.


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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