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James C. Kevlin

Newspaper Editor
Pennsylvania, USA

What is your job title and what did it take to get that job?

My job title is Editor.  Running a country newspaper was a dream of mine that I worked toward incrementally: from reporter, to mid-level editor, and so on.

Did you always want to be a newspaper editor?

I perceived newspapering as a way to make the world a better place.  I perceived newspapers as a place where people could turn for help when all other avenues failed.  I enjoyed writing and was good at it.  I enjoyed the mix of thought and action; many lines of work give you one or the other.  I don't remember a time when I wanted to do anything else.

What are the best things about your job?

The surprises: You never know what awaits you on any given day.  The other day, a meteor shower struck our county; two days later, there was a flash flood.

What are the worst things about your job?  What would you change about your job to make it better?

The need to serve so many constituencies: the publisher, the reader, the customer, department heads, supervisory editors, reporters, etc., etc.  The juggling is constant.  I don't know if that can be changed.  The change I would like to see is: more resources.  When I got into the newspaper business, there was an outcry when national chains sought to reduce editorial staffs to one per 1,000 circulation.  Now, a newspaper is lucky to have even that level of editorial staffing. This has limited what can be done.  On the other hand, salaries have increased, which has lowered turnover and raised quality.

What does your family think of your work?  Did anyone in your family work in the newspaper business before you?

Everyone seems to think newspaper work is slightly exotic and slightly seedy.  I'm the first in my family to do newspaper work that I know of.  However, my great-grandfather and his brothers -- Jim, Matt and Dave -- unionized the mills in Pittsfield, Mass., and Dave ran for mayor of Pittsfield on the socialist ticket in 1919.  I've always felt an affinity with that striving for social justice, part of what drew me to newspaper work.

Do you live in a city or a town?  How big is it?

Pottsville is a "city" under Pennsylvania statute, but a city of 15,000 in a county of 150,000; it's not particularly rural -- rather, small manufacturing and mining enterprises surrounded by rural valleys.

What are the best things about living in Pottsville?  Would you ever want to move somewhere else?

Vibrant nature (four seasons, lots of variety in trees, plants and animals, beautiful scenery), interesting history, no crime, little congestion, pretty good schools, proximity to metro areas (New York, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore in 2-3 hours).  That said, I'm not from here, so my roots aren't particularly deep.

How many hours do you typically work per week?  What hours do you work?  Do you spend a lot of time at your desk or do you travel?

60+/- [Sixty hours plus or minus].  From 6 a.m. to 4:30-5:30, and often 3-4 hours on a Saturday.  Fairly frequently, there are night and weekend responsibilities and appearances in connection with the job.  There's a lot of inside work, some outside work, some travel, mostly in Pennsylvania, outside P-A once/twice a year for speaking engagements (on New Media, primarily, although that's flat right now) and conferences.

Do you have kids?  If so, what do they think of your work?

Joe thinks my work takes too much time. He likes to stop by the office from time to time.  He likes to read the sports pages.  My older boy, John, is a senior at Ithaca College, majoring in computer science (and interning at the DOE in D.C. this summer).  He is proud of paper, of the New Media pioneering, in particular, and likes to discuss the internal workings.

What do you do when you are not working?

Spend time with my wife MJ and boy Joe.  Joe, at 7, plays soccer, basketball, hockey and baseball, plus takes swimming lessons and is an enthusiastic boy scout.  Am currently coaching his soccer team.  Enjoy reading, cooking.  Would like to do more socializing.

Do you have any pets?

Joe has two goldfish -- Splash and Flipper.  He's lobbying for a beagle, and I think we'll succumb before too long.

What were your favorite subjects in school?  Why?

English, history. Primarily due to teachers.  I remember Artemus Ward (American History) and Mrs. Curbera (English) from high school.

What subjects helped you most for this job?  Why?

English and history. The first, with writing; the second, because newspaper work is the last refuge of the generalist -- the more widely you read, the better.

What advice do you have for students?

Figure out who you are, what makes you happy, what you like to do, what you're good at and let those answers guide what you do.

Biography | Q&A
Chat (12 June 2002)

- 8 August 2001


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Last Updated:
8 April 2002

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