Mr. Huber, the institution
Last Thursday, the headline on a mock front page of The Corydon Democrat screamed: ‘Extra. Extra. Read all about it. Hot Off the Press! Dennis Huber retires after 32 years.’
Publisher Denny Huber, my adviser, confidant and true friend, has been with The Corydon Democrat longer than most everyone who works here today. When he began his career here in 1973, Ruby Rooksby and Randy West had already been here awhile. Ruby handled the front office and Randy the newsroom.
A month or so before Denny began here, he and his wife Linda waltzed through the front door for an impromptu visit and introductions to the staff.
‘I thought to myself,’ Ruby recalled, ‘I don’t think I’m going to like him much. He was all dressed up in a suit and tie, and Linda was, well, gorgeous. They were big city folks. City slickers from Columbus.’
Ruby said, ‘They say first impressions are usually correct, but not this time. Boy, was I ever wrong.
‘He has been a great boss and a wonderful friend.’
Denny has led this company through many changes, from a staff of 14 to nearly 40, from the Linotype to offset printing, and, finally, from the typewriter to the computer! Some of us were dragged kicking and screaming all the way.
‘I told him I might as well quit ‘ you’re bringing in computers,’ Ruby said.
‘He said, ‘Oh, hell, Ruby. You told me that when you changed from a manual typewriter to electric!’ ‘
Randy West said Denny guided the company through those many changes ‘effortlessly. He made it seem rather smooth, no crises, no meltdowns, no catastrophes.
‘He modernized this building a number of times. He computerized it, brought it into the 20th century, then the 21st.’
Randy added something about ‘freedom of the press’: ‘Denny let us do our job without trying to micromanage everything. That was one of the best things about working for him.’
Denny, 65, a Cannelton native, had a good, practical philosphy: ‘There’s an old saying, ‘You surround yourself with good, talented people, and you will be successful.’ I think that’s what happened to me.’
Denny and Linda moved here in 1973 from Columbus, where he began his career as a liaison between the advertising and news departments at the daily Evening Republican, now The Republic.
The Hubers have nine children between them, and six of them got a start in the working world at one job or another here. Susan was a janitor with her sister, Jayne, as students at Corydon Central High School. Later Susan became an award-winning journalist. Denny’s retirement gave her good cause to pause.
‘Inevitably, we turn selfish and think of how certain events affected us, and that makes me think of how I was the janitor at The Democrat, of how exposure to the literary and the graphic arts world absolutely affected my career choice and how I would live my life,’ said Susan, who is now an IT communications manager at Lexmark International in Lexington, Ky., and an adjunct professor of communications at Midway (Ky.) College.
‘I remember leaning on the push-broom at the paste-up tables and looking at the Obit pages the night before Section A would run (first thing Wednesday morning). Scanning those 150 or so words made me wonder what someone would say someday about me, and it made me think about how I would spend my days and have some control about what will someday be said about me. I think that experience has made me the determined person that I am.’
The same could be said about me.
When Virgil and I moved to Elizabeth 27 years ago, one of the first treasures we spotted was this newspaper. It was purely and simply a reflection of the community, a record of Harrison County history. We were used to the now-defunct Louisville Times and Sunday Courier-Journal, both of which carried state and national news and not so much local stuff.
The greatest problem we had with The Corydon Democrat was finding a copy on Wednesdays, because the stores in Elizabeth would sell out before we got home from work. After our son, Virgil Jr., made the ‘Military news’ as a U.S. Marine Corps basic training grad, we couldn’t wait any longer. We hightailed it to Corydon to get a subscription.
Yes, Ruby waited on us at the front counter, and we were much impressed. We were sold on this newspaper and read it cover to cover every week, even the parts we thought were corny and so different from big-city newspapers.
After I became a communications student at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, this newspaper was held up as a standard, and it was due to the commitment of the O’Bannons and the leadership of Denny Huber. That’s not surprising, because he trained at the feet of publisher Robert Presley O’Bannon, a civic leader and revered statesman who died in 1987.
‘Bob was very compassionate yet firm in some ways,’ Denny recalled. ‘Fairness was always an issue with him, good journalism. He was just an all-around really great person, I thought.’
Denny’s vision for this and other community newspapers reflects that of the O’Bannons, both Bob and his sons, Frank and Bobby, who kept the emphasis on the community and let the dailies worry about national and world happenings.
‘You don’t compete with the dailies; you report the news that happens in your community and the surrounding area,’ Denny said. ‘It’s just like a big family.’
He has proven that many times, most recently when a man stopped in the front office in search of a little help. ‘I thought I had been asked about everything, but this guy walked in the front door and wanted to know if anybody could tie a tie,’ Denny said. ‘He had a meeting to go to. I put it around my neck, tied it and then stuck it on him. They said (in the front office) that I’ve seen it all. And I think I have.’
Judging from the many visitors ‘ including newspaper people from around the state, who stopped by the O’Bannon Publishing Co.’s offices Thursday afternoon at an open house to wish Denny well ‘ he has left quite a mark on the community and the state. He is president of the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation and a member and past president of the Hoosier State Press Association, as well as the Corydon Rotary Club. He’s a member of the Inland Press Association, the National Newspaper Association, Old Capital Golf Club, the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, a director of First Harrison Bank, and a former regional and state trustee of Ivy Tech State College. He is also past chairman of the Ivy Tech board of trustees.
He will continue to serve this newspaper as a director of O’Bannon Publishing Co. Judy O’Bannon is chairman of the board. Jon O’Bannon, who also worked here in his youth, is the new publisher.
Thursday afternoon, after the luncheon in Denny’s honor was over and many of the goodbyes had been said, Judy O’Bannon took note.
‘There’s a lot of institutional memory walking out that door,’ she said. ‘The older I get, the more respect I have for that.’
Overhearing, Jon could not possibly resist:
‘Does that mean he should be institutionalized?’
In our book, Denny is the institution.
‘Thank you, Mr. Huber.’