Observer owners enjoy break after newspaper’s long run

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Joe and Karen Good set­tled on Dec. 29, 2011, for the final edition of their long-running Thursday weekly.

At 71 and 69, respectively, the couple stopped the presses of The Observer after 44 years of telling the stories of their Kewanna community.

“We decided it would be a good time to retire,” Mr. Good said. “Not because we were forced to or anything like that. We just decided it would be a good time.”

Their in-house production operation, however, refused to go gentle into that good night on Dec. 28.

“We had trouble with the press, and we weren’t sure we were going to get the last issue out,” Mrs. Good said. “That was kind of scary.”

One of the two press motors shorted out and ran the wrong direction, Mr. Good said.

After working on it himself to no avail, Mr. Good called in a technician for a second opinion.

That didn’t faze the petulant press at first, but they kept fiddling with it.

Suddenly the motor started turning the right way.

Just like that, the press was rolling.

“It just finally caught,” Mr. Good said. “Minor hiccup there …”

Mr. Good started working at The Observer as a high school senior.

“The guy who owned the newspaper called the school and wanted someone with quick hands, and I wasn’t doing anything other than milking cows and farming,” he said.

He intended the job to last through the summer of 1959, when he would head off to Purdue University.

That was 53 years ago.

“I got in there and never got out,” Mr. Good said. “I got that printer ink on me, and it stuck.”

Mrs. Good married into the business. From the time they bought The Observer in 1967, the couple produced the paper themselves with some help from family members.

When they switched from a letter press to offset in the early 1980s, they didn’t have a folder for the new paper size.

“It got to be a family operation on Thursday mornings,” Mr. Good said. “We hand-folded for about a year until we found a folder.”

With the offset press, the Goods did layouts on a computer, printed them out and then pasted up everything onto pages. From there, Mr. Good photographed the pages and made plates.

“It’s a pretty big jump from letter press to offset when you learn on your own,” he said. “We were up there six days a week a lot, but that’s what happens when you own your own business and you’re doing the work yourself.”

The Goods ended The Obser­ver’s run with a circulation of 550, down from a high of about 700 in the late 1960s.

When the local high school consolidated in 1982, the Goods had fewer sports and other school news to cover, Mr. Good said. Not as many people took the paper.

The north-central Indiana community of Kewanna has had a local newspaper since the late 1800s, Mrs. Good said. At one time The Observer press printed five newspapers and two shoppers.

“I figure we lucked out when we got into the business at the right time,” Mr. Good said. “It worked out for us.”

The Observer has been for sale for a year and a half. Someone is looking at it, but they’ve had no offers.

The Goods’ adult son and daughter have careers outside of the newspaper industry.

“We raised our kids there … that’s probably why they don’t want any part of it,” Mr. Good said, bringing a laugh from him and his wife.

The Goods said they are happy with retirement. They might travel this summer.

“We don’t have any deadlines to meet,” Mr. Good said. “That’s basically what we’re enjoying.”

Community response to the paper’s end has been strong.

“We’ve had so many emails, phone calls, thank-you notes, cards,” Mr. Good said. “People are going to miss it, miss the hometown news.”