editor Kozak

Robert J. Kozak, editor of the Lancaster New Era from 1986-2000.

Producing a daily newspaper was both the biggest challenge and the most enduring reward of William Cody’s 35 years working as a journalist for the Intelligencer Journal, including the last eight as editor.

For all the years he spent as city editor, news editor and then editor at Lancaster County’s morning daily, the paper went to bed as scheduled, following traditional cycles of afternoon planning meetings and story budgeting, shuffling reporters for breaking news and rearranging pages in time for first edition, which went to press at 1:30 a.m.

There were only two days that Cody, now 86, remembers thinking his team might not make it.

On June 22, 1972, deadly Hurricane Agnes roared into Lancaster, flooding streets, destroying buildings and threatening standard printing and delivering processes.

With a contingency plan formulated on the fly, the Intelligencer Journal made it out the doors on the 23rd with breathtaking photos that captured the devastation.

Then, on March 28, 1979, a partial meltdown at TMI seemed to threaten the lives of the staff and existence of the paper itself. And the paper went out again, even as Cody, then news editor, and his colleagues struggled to find nuclear experts and arranged to get their own families out of town.

“There were periods when we were scared as to what was actually happening,” Cody says, speaking recently from his home in Lancaster. “No one bailed on us. We really appreciated that.”

Six editors

Cody is one of six living former or retired editors of newspapers that were published by Steinman Communications, all of them having remained in Lancaster County.

During both major regional crises of the 1970s, Cody’s peer and competitor was Robert Kozak, 82, who led the afternoon Lancaster New Era for 14 years until retiring in 2000.

Charles “Ray” Shaw, 68, took the reins at the Intell after Cody left, while Ernest Schreiber, 71, took over at the New Era through 2009. Marvin I. Adams, 68, overlapped with the tenures of both Shaw and

Schreiber during his time as editor of the Sunday News.

Schreiber came back in 2012 to lead the consolidated newspapers, and was succeeded by Barbara Hough Roda, now Barbara Hough Huesken, 59, from 2013 to 2017.

Through the daily highs and lows, these editors helped guide their papers through changing times.

While they embraced emerging technologies, they also sought to remain a reliable voice for residents whose county was growing at a breakneck pace.

“When I was a reporter, you could leave the office and be in Lititz in 15 minutes. Or less. And not speed,” says Adams, who was at the helm of the Sunday News from 2005 to 2013. “The suburbs just exploded. I also saw the city slowly decline, but then bounce back.”

Covering 60 municipalities was a major challenge for Schreiber, who came out of retirement in 2013. (By that time, the Intell, New Era and the Sunday News had been combined.) Huesken oversaw the newspaper’s rebranding as LNP in 2014.)

Local coverage, especially of government and school meetings, has long been a staple of LNP’s approach to news-gathering.

So was bearing witness to the loss of farmland that had sustained so many for so long.

“It’s what I called the slow-motion ‘macadamization’ of Lancaster County. It’s not the kind of event that jumps up and says, ‘Look at me!’ ” Kozak says. “You had to get several layers below the surface.”

Kozak aimed to tell the story through the people who depended on the land. And for that, he depended on reporters who attended routine meetings and developed an eye and ear for unusual trends. They would help Kozak publish several pamphlets that focused on evolutionary forces at work in Lancaster County.

Despite the focus on changing rural communities, the city wasn’t forgotten. The last of those pamphlets was titled “Black Lancaster: Through the Eyes of Its People.”

As the community around the newspapers’ King Street offices changed, the papers used their editorial power to help move the needle for improvement.

“The newspaper ramped up coverage of ways to end the city crime wave that was driving residents and businesses to the suburbs,” Schreiber says. “County business and government leaders came up with two solutions — hundreds of street-corner cameras and a downtown convention center. On our editorial pages, we argued passionately for these programs to deter crime and stimulate downtown business growth.”

Challenged by change

This newspaper’s editors were intent on making an impact across Lancaster County, they were equally compelled by changes inside their own building.

Cody arrived in Lancaster from a small daily in Lynchburg, Virginia, where the editorial board still opposed desegregation. He lasted there just nine months.

“I always thought that Lancaster Newspapers rescued me,” Cody says. “I found we were not 100 percent. We had our own warts, but things were changing on the upside.”

As news editor, Cody helped integrate the newsroom by backing African-American reporting candidate Earl Caldwell. Caldwell would soon go on to work for The New York Times and report on the Black Panther Party from inside the organization.

Shaw, too, looked for job candidates who reflected the county’s changing demographics. Diversifying the reporting staff was mirrored by attempts to make coverage more reflective and inclusive of the city’s growing African-American and Hispanic populations.

“I always go back to our people and neighbors,” says Huesken, the paper’s first female executive editor. She now serves as community liaison. “One of the significant changes here has been the diversity of our people. It makes what we do very interesting and brings a certain richness. ... We’ve been mindful of having a newsroom that reflects that.”

All of the editors also had to deal with technological changes. Where once IBM Selectrics were standard, PCs soon became the norm and paved the way for a transition from hot type to cold type to desktop publishing. That meant major cuts in the composing room, and more work for the editorial staff.

Often, Kozak remembers, the newsroom spearheaded efforts to innovate, beta-testing all kinds of software with its inherent kinks.

All the while, reporters for the two daily papers were still sharing desks, trading seats in the afternoon and competing for the same stories day after day.

“Competition brings out the best in people,” Kozak says. “That was one of the major accomplishments of our staff: to keep competing as an afternoon daily for so long.”

The New Era at one point became the largest afternoon paper in the state, and under Shaw’s leadership, the Intell’s daily circulation surpassed 50,000.

Shaw calls 2000 the height of print journalism, and notes how readers devoured newspapers a year later, when terrorists hit the twin towers, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville.

And yet, the internet was encroaching quickly. This newspaper launched LancasterOnline in the early 2000s, offering readers instant access to its stories.

By 2009, the papers were losing both ad sales and readers to the internet, and the Steinman family decided to combine its morning and afternoon papers. At first, the news was good: Combined circulation for the two daily papers now topped 88,000.

But then Shaw faced the worst day of his career — and, he says, possibly the worst of his life — when he oversaw a newsroom layoff of 14 employees.

“It’s not something I ever wanted to do or ever want to do again. People knew they had this sword hanging over them. It was terrible.”

Years later, Shaw retired. Having traded 12-hour days for year-round vacations, he holds nothing against the industry.

“The people you work with at a newspaper, most of them are a little bent. They’re funny, frustrating and sometimes it’s a little like herding cats. But every day there is something to laugh about,” he says. “I can say honestly I enjoyed pretty much every day of the 40 years I worked there … I’ll always be a newspaper man, and I wish the paper nothing but the best.”

Adams retired from his job about six months later, after the Sunday News was consumed by the dailies.

It was Schreiber who stepped in to help lead the new organization and focus its digital efforts.

He had first been in charge of LancasterOnline in 2010 and helped LNP launch MyCommunityNews, which was a short-lived effort to offer targeted online news by municipal area.

Even that wasn’t enough to build strong interest because, he says, Google, the go-to source for so many would-be readers, didn’t prioritize local hits in its search engine results.

“They now get the advertising dollars that newspapers depended on to pay their reporters,” Schreiber says in an email, decrying shrinking newsrooms across the U.S.

“There is simply a loss of news about what’s going on in your community,” he says during a subsequent interview. “There are large voids. Meetings get held and you don’t know about it. School boards take important action, and if there’s not a reporter there, you don’t know about it. It’s a terrible turn of events.”

In 2013, it fell to Huesken to lead innovative changes in presenting news, as she asked reporters to multitask as photographers, videographers and social media users. One of the most memorable stories from her years as executive editor was the publication of a package about Columbia Borough. Presented in a style that allowed the reader to roll through the story visually, the package was one of the first times LNP published a project online first.

“Our need to be able to tell compelling stories, the way we gather news, that doesn’t change,” Huesken says. “But the way we distribute the news, that does.”

Huesken still gets emotional remembering the day in 2015 that she and the paper’s publisher stood at opposite ends of the press at 8 W. King St., and turned it off for the final time because the printing of the paper had been outsourced to another company.

Like a copy of the first Sunday News from 1923 and the first edition of LNP, the end of in-house printing was a reminder of the paper’s “awesome” responsibility to its community.

“It just reminds me of how things change, but we keep moving forward,” she says.

The big stories

Despite the challenges they faced, each LNP editor tackled major news stories that captivated the community and, sometimes, the nation.

Adams, Schreiber and Shaw were all in charge when Charles Carl Roberts IV ambushed an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines on Oct. 2, 2006, and killed five girls.

It was a big story that drew international coverage and took an emotional toll on the reporters and photographers who covered it.

“It was just something you never expected to happen,” Adams says. “Often when news happens, you just go into a different gear. But when it’s a tragedy, especially a tragedy involving children, it’s difficult to do that.”

Some in the local community blasted the media for its presence at Nickel Mines, which drew morning television shows and cable broadcasters by the truckload.

Even inside LNP, there were those who wanted to limit the paper’s coverage, Schreiber says. But he argued that the papers should maintain their presence, given they had the best knowledge of the community and a history of respecting Amish traditions and beliefs.

“I felt we needed to do much better, more in-depth coverage of the episode, particularly the reaction and the push for forgiveness,” Schreiber says. In the aftermath, the New Era published a booklet titled “Lost Angels,” a collection of in-depth stories about the killings. Proceeds from the sale of the booklet benefited the families affected by the shooting.

The paper went on to win multiple regional and national awards for its coverage. And maybe more importantly, Schreiber notes, Amish from across the U.S. and Canada called to ask the newspaper for reprints.

Shaw, who was in charge of the Intell when the terrorist attack on Sept. 11 happened, ranked it at the top among years of big stories. His reporters quickly set to work identifying local connections.

But the maddening pace of the work on that day was only the beginning.

“Everything changed with 9/11,” Shaw says. “The pace of news just seemed to get faster, the drum beat of it all. America changed and our involvement in the world changed. We were worried about being attacked again, and then we were headed to war.”

Balancing the breaking overseas developments with news that had impact locally remained a delicate and difficult struggle.

“All things being equal — a newsworthy story, good reporting — the local story was going to win,” Shaw says. “But Lancaster is much more cosmopolitan than people sometimes give our readers credit for. They wanted the national news, too.”

Other local stories that made lasting impressions included farmland preservation efforts and the murders of Laurie Show in 1991 and Christy Mirack in 1992.

In 2016, Huesken spearheaded a right-to-know battle over Manheim Township School District’s handling of a superintendent’s departure and the hiring of an interim replacement. While some members of the public initially bristled at the in-depth coverage, others began packing public meetings. The state auditor later declared the school board’s actions illegal and wasteful.

“We don’t do this for ourselves,” Huesken says. “We do it for the greater good of the community, for the health and rigor of our democracy. ... It really puts others on notice. It’s not something we will ever back down from.”

For Kozak, the most meaningful project might have been a supplement on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy during World War II. He’d put a call out on the editorial page, hoping his staff could tell enough local veterans’ stories to fill eight pages. Eventually, they produced a 32-page piece that moved readers, veterans’ family members and his young staff writers.

“They were incredible stories about the heroes next door, your own neighbors who did things you’d never know about,” Kozak says.

For Cody, one of the most scandalous and challenging stories to manage revolved around a once-trusted community leader. Jim Guerin’s International Signal & Control was a major Lancaster business, working on defense contracts for space-vehicle rocket engines, electronic battlefield sensors, circuit boards and more.

But the Intelligencer Journal, acting on a tip, uncovered the fact that Guerin was being investigated after federal law enforcement officials found irregularities in his company’s books.

Guerin blasted the paper for doing a “hatchet job” and left town with his family in 1989.

Cody stood by his reporters, despite taking intense heat from community members who initially believed Guerin’s claims of innocence.

In 1991, Guerin was one of 20 individuals and companies indicted for their alleged roles in a $1.14 billion fake-contract scheme and a scheme to smuggle $50 million worth of military products to South Africa. He later pleaded guilty and served 13 years of a 15-year sentence.

Support from the top

“We received a lot of support from Jack Buckwalter when he was president of Lancaster Newspapers,” Cody says. “He backed us up over a lot of the criticism … He gave us the resources we needed. When I wanted to send the late (reporter Tom) Flannery to London to investigate British links (to the Guerin scandal), he gave the OK.”

Shaw says he always felt lucky that his hardest choices as editor were about what to cover with the space, time and resources he had. Unlike many of his editing colleagues at other publications, he wasn’t tied up in endless meetings justifying expenses or fighting for a daily budget. And his publishers also gave him leeway to decide what justified coverage.

“When Bill Cody retired, Jack Buckwalter told me, ‘Just put out the best paper you can,’ ” Shaw says. “I had it great.”

Adams says that freedom allowed the Sunday News to build its investigative focus during his tenure. One simple-but-enduring legacy from Adams’ days: publishing restaurant reports compiled by local health inspectors.

While state officials who conducted reviews in the county were forthcoming with their results, Adams got intense push-back from the city. Adams had heard that city inspections were happening only sporadically, and then-Mayor Charles Smithgall wouldn’t hand over the results.

The newspaper continued its pressure, and Smithgall eventually relented. But not before, Adams says, he delivered a veiled threat asking what would happen if The Pressroom, owned by Steinman Communications, were to receive a bad inspection.

“I’d run it,” Adams told him.

“Too many officials in Lancaster County had the high-and-mighty feeling that government was none of the public’s business,” Adams writes in an email. “I am afraid that remains a battle for the newspaper.”