After nearly five decades in the newspaper business, Kay Batdorf, manager of the CourierTraveler composing department, is preparing for her final edition. She will retire Friday.
Publisher David A, Seaton said that Batdorf would be greatly missed. He described her as an anchor of the newspaper, always working behind the scenes to get the job done.
“I’ll be a little scared when she leaves Friday, although she has trained her replacement, Jennie Steelman, well,” he said.
Batdorf began her career in August 1971 with The Arkansas City Traveler. Her main job was to design and assemble advertising.
She has taken on many different roles over the years, even working to sell classified ads. She said her duties have also included setting up ads and electronic dummies for the Newkirk and Cedar Vale papers.
“I just do whatever needs to be done,” she said. “But the main part of my job has been ad design.”
Batdorf has seen a lot of changes in newspaper production technology. More than 12 people staffed the composing area when she started five decades ago.
“Everything was done by hand, by cut-and-paste,” she said. “It took all of them to get the job done.”
Batdorf said the reporters would write stories on a regular typewriter, which she would then retype into a typesetting machine.
After being proofread, the text was then pasted onto the correct page. She said it was a slow process back then.
“It might take somebody a whole day to do a full-page ad,” she said.
As technology evolved and computers arrived, the process became much easier. But each upgrade also meant fewer workers were needed. Today her department only has two employees.
Batdorf said the new technology not only made her job much easier, it also made it possible to have color in the paper on a daily basis. Color photos and advertising in the past were very rare and costly due to the complexity of that process.
“When I first started to work here, I don’t know that we did any color,” she said.
Batdorf said combing the Winfield Daily Courier with the Traveler was another big change. It resulted in a lot more work when composing departments were merged.
Along with those changes, she has also noticed a big change in the type of stories being reported in the paper. She said there used to be lot more small town-type news.
When she lived in Dexter, she and her family would gather news from area communities and send it in each week. She said they were paid $5 each month and given a free subscription to the paper.
“All of the small towns would have a column and we would go around to the little old ladies to see who had been to visit and where they had been,” she said.
Two big stories stand out during her 49 years, Batdorf said. The coverage of the abduction and murder of Jodi Sanderholm was difficult to handle.
“I was doing the updates on the web when that happened,” she said. “That really bothered me.”
And news of the terrorist attack on 9-11 also is something she won’t forget.
“I remember sitting at my desk when someone came back to tell me what was going on,” she said.
Her favorite part of the job was the opportunity to be creative and design a product an advertiser would want to buy.
Her least favorite part was when she had to address employee problems.
“There was a time or two I had to be the person to tell someone that they don’t work here anymore,” she said.
There were also times that her department had to deal with unwanted visitors. On several occasions, a bat was discovered in her area and a pressman was called on to capture it.
“The last bat came to see me,” she said with a laugh. “That’s a little added attraction.”
And before the building’s roof was replaced, she got pretty good at placing trash cans to catch a bad leak in the corner of her department.
When asked if she would miss her job, Batdorf responded with a quick “no.” She’s ready to move on.
“I’ll miss the people,” she said. “But the actual job, no.”
Batdorf plans to stay busy with projects around the house, working in her yard and basically doing nothing. She said she’s pretty much a homebody, so boredom won’t be a problem.
“All you’ve got to do is hand me a book and I’m good,” she said. “I also have my cats.”
Seaton recalled former general manager Lloyd Craig once saying the composing department was running smoother than a hound’s tooth.
“That’s because of Kay’s professionalism and dedication,” Seaton said. “I’m grateful to have worked and become friends with her over the years.”