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WITT: Sad news for Winchester

This column appears at a particularly sad time in the history of Clark County, the simultaneous announcement that The Winchester Sun has reduced its publication days and the news that one of Winchester’s pre-eminent citizens, Janet Watts, has passed away.

Janet was known throughout the community and part of the last vestige of the shoe repair industry.

As a cobbler, she was part of a vanishing breed, joining the ranks of fletchers and wheelwrights. She operated the only shoe repair business still in Clark County, and was revered for her honesty, her hard work and her caring for others.

Equally saddening is the recent announcement of our local paper that it would commence printing only two days a week.

Many living in Clark County have spent their entire life reading The Sun as a daily paper, sans Sunday.

Since 1908 the paper has delivered national, regional and local news to the reading public on a daily basis.

More recently it has included online editions and continued to reach a wide audience, even as the number of print editions diminished.

The older generation can recall the days when the “funnies” included Blondie, The Phantom, Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy and others, and the reading abilities of the kids of the earlier generations were enhanced by reading of those comics.

In earlier days, the sidewalk on Cleveland Avenue at the lower entrance to The Sun offices was occupied by boys awaiting the printing of the afternoon edition so they could begin their routes, carrying white canvas bags filled with the paper’s issues, waiting to be rolled and bent and tossed onto porches (only rarely onto a roof or into a bush). It didn’t take long for those white canvas bags to become soiled and grayed by the printing ink that was barely dry before delivery began.

Changes that have accompanied the evolution of The Sun include the transition from moveable type to computer developed stories, composed on the upper floor of the building and transmitted directly to the composing room and printing presses, the inclusion of color printing, the movement away from individual paper carriers to independent contractors delivering the paper and then to mail delivery.

It was only last year that the printing of a Monday edition was terminated. Changes in readership, subscriber numbers and advertising prompted that change.

Perhaps the change to twice-weekly publication will be temporary. There is little doubt that the current pandemic is having an effect on this process, and it’s possible that when this crisis is over, the paper will be able to resume its previous printing schedule.

However, The Sun is not the only paper to be affected by the multiple changes impacting print media.

Newspapers all across the country are experiencing similar conditions.

A recent internet search showed that there are presently only four papers in Kentucky which are still considered dailies. It was not so long ago there were 15 or more.

A great many have transitioned to twice-weekly publication and many, many more have not printed more than once weekly for a long time.

But those who have grown up with a daily Winchester Sun will lament its change, while understanding why is has come about and hope for its return.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.