REMINISCING…

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By Bern Zovistoski

My hometown of Granville has always drawn me back, no matter where in the world I found myself.

After five years at The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, I joined the Army National Guard for six months of active-duty training. During that time I gave a lot of thought to my future, weighing whether to return to Newark or find a smaller place where I might excel.

Since my parents, Ed and Rose Zovistoski, still resided in Granville, I decided to apply at The Post-Star in Glens Falls in 1963 and publisher Arthur Irving hired me. I bunked with my parents, which offered an opportunity to spend a good deal of time in Granville.

And that’s when I met Paulette Lee.

If I hadn’t made the move to return, I never would have met Paulette, whom I married on June 5, 1965, and I remain enthralled with her still today.

Of course, even though Art Irving said I was the highest-paid reporter on his staff it wasn’t enough to fund homemaking, so on Aug. 30, 1965, I began work as a reporter at The Times-Union in Albany.

And I remained there for 25 years, working through the ranks to become, at age 32, managing editor of The Times-Union. Subsequently I became managing editor-administration until, at the age of 50, opportunity struck again.

Following a Congressional investigation of claims of undue influence in the editorial operations of the daily military newspaper European Stars and Stripes, a plan was crafted to place the editorial operations of both the European edition and the Pacific Stars and Stripes under civilian leadership, reporting to a military officer serving as publisher. The plan bestowed the title of civilian colonel on the editors to acknowledge the importance of rank distinction.

I was one of two finalists invited to Tokyo for interviews and orientation but lost that opportunity to a journalist who worked for the Los Angeles Times and was more familiar with the Far East than I.

That was, in fact, an opportunity in disguise because the Defense Department people managing the whole situation wanted very much for me to be considered for the European job, based in Darmstadt, Germany, just south of Frankfurt.

I was hired by the publisher, Air Force Col. Gene Townsend, and reported to work 10 days before the bombs of Operation Desert Storm began to fall.

I assembled a team of journalists, some of whom were civilians and some military, and we improved the coverage of the news and its presentation. At one point we heard that the U.S. commander in Europe had told all his unit commanders to read European Stars and Stripes first thing every morning.

Among the changes we introduced was a true letters-to-the-editor page, which became enormously popular among the troops.

Prior to our changes, often just one letter would be published, unsigned, and answered by one of the commands.

We encouraged all our readers to write letters to us – and to sign their names.

Incredibly, it worked, and a strong letters page remains in the newspaper to this day.

The job as top civilian editor of European Stars and Stripes was the most challenging and satisfying assignment of my life as a journalist. It was a dream job that lasted for nearly six years and Paulette and I were sorry to see it end.

But nothing lasts forever and we were soon to return to Granville, where we built a house near Paulette’s parents, Paul and Marguerite Lee. I met with John Manchester, then owner and publisher of Manchester Newspapers, and we hit it off.

As a part-time editor of Manchester Newspapers, I’d gone full circle.