DEAR EDITOR: I was shocked, truly shocked, to learn that (Mr. Kinney) has surrendered the lofty post that he had manned for … Lordy, how many decades has it been?
I first worked under his protective wing in the summer of 1949. That was going on seven decades ago, and he was a veteran then. Amazing, simply amazing. He long ago became a legend in his own time. I’m sure people are already speaking of him (with admiration, of course, if not reverence) as “the legendary Bill Kinney.”
I had so much fun those two summers I worked for the Marietta Journal, 1949 and 1950, in that little brick building on Anderson Street, off the south side of the Square. The newsroom, the editor’s office and the advertising department were all crowded into one modest space. The Linotypes, the press and the composing stones were right out back, and the place smelled of hot metal, newsprint, ink and last week’s cigarettes.
I sat facing (Mr. Kinney’s) desk. I was fascinated by his ability to type a complete story while interviewing on the phone, fingers clattering across the keyboard while he collected facts and quotes. He was able to slot them into the text as the phone delivered them, then he rolled a well-done story out of the typewriter and slapped a headline on it. (Two type choices, as I recall: Cheltenham or Franklin Gothic.)
I wasn’t even sure I could write a story on a typewriter in ’49. I had finally worked up courage enough to ask Editor Brooks Smith for a summer job, and I nearly fell over backward when he said OK. At $20 a week! Wow! But … write on a typewriter? I wanted a pencil in my hand. Mr. Kinney said, no, forget that. Or maybe it was Brooks who stopped me on that first day.
So, I faced an old Underwood, with keys that had to be pounded, and began to try to produce words that made sense. Tap, tap-tap, tap, tap. (Or maybe on that Underwood it was bang, bang-bang, bang!)
Nah, rip it out and start over.
It probably was an obituary phoned in by “Dobbins Underground Novelties,” as Mr. Dobbins called his business, the details of which I had laboriously scribbled by hand.
I soon learned to take notes on the typewriter like Mr. Kinney did, but I never mastered the technique of molding them into a text while listening on the phone. And, by the way, weren’t phone cradles great! I bet (Mr. Kinney) still uses one.
He gave me a free hand. Do the beat run every morning, city police, county police, sheriff’s office, court office. Write it, don’t waste time. Deadline’s noon (or earlier on Thursday, as I remember, because a bunch of grocery ads had to go on that old four-page-at-a-time flatbed press. Thursday was money day.)
In the afternoon, edit the copy from the country correspondents, the front-porch-swing news from far-off Acworth and Powder Springs of who’s been where and when — “Johnny Smith has returned from Alaska, where he was connected with a pipeline.”
I truly appreciated that freedom. Man, I thought I was a pro, and here I was, just 17. Fortunately, Mr. Kinney read behind my stuff before it was passed back to Howard Mashburn (who, as well all knew, really ran the Marietta Journal). Mr. Kinney’s corrections were delivered gently; thanks for that.
Marietta will not be the same without him banging away on a keyboard. No one can match him as a living memory bank, an archive of all that has transpired, of the good men do and the evil, able to summon names and dates, and probably direct quotes, on momentary notice.
Most important, people trusted him. That’s why he was able to collect such a vast storehouse of information.
I remember a couple of stories that he chose not to put in the paper because they would have embarrassed a man or his family, and you decided the news wasn’t important enough for that. I admired him.
Thanks for everything, and God bless.
Mike Edwards Washington, D.C.