For some people, the newspaper industry is a far cry from their dream career. For others, it’s a passion they couldn’t imagine doing life without. Yet still, for others, they stumble into it with an open mind and a lot of talent to give.
That is how Keith Barlow, publisher at The Union-Recorder, got into the business.
“I was attending Georgia College and State University and I was getting an Information Systems Communications degree,” Barlow said. “My girlfriend, now wife, Paige, was still in school so I was going to stick around in Milledgeville until she graduated from college and then we were going to leave Milledgeville.”
Barlow was in the military for a while and was in another town when he heard about an opening at a paper in Milledgeville.
“I was in the Air Force Reserves in Warner Robins and one day I heard about a job down here at The Union-Recorder, so I stopped by. I was in uniform and I interviewed right there on the spot,” he recalled. “I was sitting there in my military uniform and I got a job here as a graphic designer. Within a few months, I became the supervisor over creative services.”
Barlow moved into the computer world at the newspaper, made his way through the production department and eventually became the operations director.
After his first 9 1/2 year stint at the paper, Barlow left to open his own marketing company but returned to the newspaper business when he purchased a weekly paper. He sold that paper and came back to The Union-Recorder to help with operations, what he knew best.
After returning operations director again, he became the advertising director and then the publisher in the early 2000s. He’s been the publisher ever since.
In his time working in various positions, Barlow has seen a lot of changes in the newspaper world. From working manually on the layout to automating it with technology, he has been a part of several integral choices that have made the paper what it is today.
“The Union-Recorder was one of the first newspapers to paginate,” he said. “When I first started here, we were doing layouts on layout boards, we were taking copy and running it through a waxer and putting it up on boards. We took everything from being laid out on boards to computers. Everything’s gotten to be where it’s so easy on the computer — what you see is what you get.”
While most of the original method has faded out, the printing process remains relatively the same.
“We still print the newspaper here, but from start to finish — that’s changed dramatically. But, back in the back, the press is basically the same thing. [Production manager] Keith Justice keeps it rolling.”
Knowing so much about different roles at the paper has helped him become a better manager, Barlow said. Whether it’s helping design an advertisement or knowing the expectations from the pressmen, his experience at the paper has ultimately led him to where he is today.
Times have changed, however, requiring newspapers to shift as the collapse of American retail has hurt the industry.
“We continue to publish good content in the newspaper, we’ve continued to produce what we did 10 years ago, but we just have less revenue,” said Barlow.
“The future is unknown. What’s the newspaper going to look like in five years, in 10 years? I expect the newspaper to be here, but it will look different than it does today. Trying to keep up with the changes, you’re hoping the decisions you’re making today are going to help save the newspaper in the future.”
Publishing daily and still printing in-house, the paper strives for modern stories, while keeping the tradition of community newspapers alive.
“The president of CNHI says all the time that our jobs are to save newspapers,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here at The Union-Recorder every single day.”
Everyone who works at the paper wants to save newspapers. With Barlow at the helm, the reporters, ad reps and business staff have someone who believes in the product being produced, making it easy to follow suit and believe in it, too.
“The community needs a newspaper," he said. “They need good, quality communications about what’s going on in their community. We’re going to put truthful information in the stories that we write.”
The changes in the industry and in the world, in general, have all impacted The Union-Recorder.
“I think it’s incredible being here when we turn 200 years old,” Barlow said. “For a company to be able to say that they’ve been around for 200 years, there’s not a lot of companies that can say that. I think it’s unbelievable that we’ve been here for 200 years and I’m excited about being part of it.”
From operations director to publisher, Barlow has had a hand in years of production of the paper.
“You never know what direction your life is going to lead.”