By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin (Anderson)
ANDERSON – Connie Alexander has seen a lot of change in the newspaper business since joining Anderson Newspapers in 1975.
When giant web presses in the basement of 1133 Jackson St. began whining to velocity to deliver the day’s editions, you could feel the rumble throughout the building.
And the noise!
Clacking typewriters, clanging Associated Press machines and the smell of melted wax used to glue copy and advertisements to page proofs were all parts of the urgent atmosphere.
The business is different now, certainly quieter, but the sense of urgency in delivering both news and results for advertisers remains the same.
Printing is now done outside the building. Muffled tapping on computer keyboards has replaced many of the other traditional sounds of a newspaper.
And Alexander has worked through it all.
On her final day as advertising sales manager of The Herald Bulletin last month, Alexander, 64, took a few moments to reflect on her newspaper career.
Starting at a time when newspaper advertising sales staffs were dominated by men, Alexander worked at the front desk, handling the needs of churches that wanted to advertise in the paper. It wasn’t long before she was tapped to begin selling retail advertising.
In those days, sales staffs worked on commission alone, and so did Alexander. But she didn’t earn the same amount as her male counterparts.
“I was doing a man’s job but for half the pay,” she recalled.
These days, however, “there are very few men in the sales forces of newspapers.”
Alexander stuck with the job.
She worked at The Herald Bulletin sister papers in Kokomo, Lebanon and Zionsville for five years before returning to Anderson.
She would leave home before 5 a.m. to arrive at her desk by 6 a.m.
When she started, sales reps were expected to spend all their time out of the office selling.
A whole department existed to handle the tasks of making up the ads. Now, advertising representatives handle those tasks themselves.
Henry Bird, publisher of The Herald Bulletin, called Alexander an “institution” at the paper.
When she was the leading retail sales representative at the paper in the early 1990s, he promoted Alexander to retail advertising manager.
“She knows everybody in town, and everybody in town knows her,” Bird said.
“She’s been a mainstay of our advertising department for many, many years.
She stuck to it and rose to the top.”
One of Alexander’s great strengths, Bird added, is her outgoing personality.
“She could walk in and charm them (business owners) and make them feel good about their decision to advertise in the newspaper.”
Advertising in the newspaper was “the only ballgame in town,” Alexander said.
Not only did Alexander master her craft, Bird said, but she also served as mentor to new sales representatives and had a knack for recognizing young sales talent.
“Her personality is very mothering, I think,” Bird said. “As mothering as she was, she was also a fairly demanding boss. She knew she needed to get sales and bring in revenue. She has always been very focused on that.”
Alexander is an Anderson native. After graduating from Highland High School, she attended Ball State University for a year before jetting off to Hawaii for an adventure with three girlfriends in 1969.
Alexander told her father that she would return in a few months. But months turned into three years.
In retirement, Alexander said she’ll spend time with her daughter, Robyn, and her two grandchildren, as well as with her 90-year-old mother, Violet Hill, who lives part of the year in Florida.