The Princess and the Print

The is a fairy tale about how a small-town newspaperwoman masters the tools of her trade.

 Once upon a time in the small town of Athens, Georgia, there lived a teenager who thought she was a princess and dreamed of being a newspaperwoman. (That would be ME) It all started when she was on the staff of Athens High School’s Thumb Tack Tribune. There was a yearning in her soul to be “up” on things going  “down” in her community. And as the story continued, she saw that dream come true.

 Blessed with job karma and an ABJ degree from the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism, her career journey began in 1969 at the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress. Heading back to Athens after two years, she had the good fortune of being asked to take over the position of Woman’s Editor for the Athens Banner Herald, and the saga took on a whole new life. Her work would take her from print all the way through local television, retirement and two decades later to her final chapter as a weekly contributor to the online news site Athens Patch.

 During the course of this saga, this girl, who is I – Princess Meg Gunn Booker McGriff  McGriff (yes, she married that one twice!) Gunn Dure (I openly confess this tacky string of surnames, as my byline has changed many times) – had to master many types of machinery in order to do her job. So when her cousin, John Kearns, sent her the attached 4-second video on Facebook, well voila! A Mornings with Meg column was born.

 Old timers like Meg love to crow about how satisfying it was in the olden days to pound out a story on a manual Royal typewriter. Some, like Athens iconic journalist Dan Magill, even managed to complete their work using only two fingers. But in Meg’s debut in the ABH newsroom, she got to use the skills taught to her by Willa Dean Birchmore using traditional manual typing with both hands and all fingers. She pounded the keys like tom-toms, and her copy took life on real paper right before her eyes! Ah! The Princess was reminded by her cousin, Sally Everding, who lives in the far-away kingdom of Tacoma, Washington, of the satisfaction resulting from throwing that carriage return lever with gusto! Fling!! click, click, click, click, click, click, DING! Fling!

 Several years later our heroine was introduced to the IBM Selectric, a fancy schmancy robotic machine that did most of the work for her with the simple tiny tap of the keys. As a budding editor, Princess Meg would hit the ABH break room each morning, arm herself with a hot pink can of ice cold TAB, cheese crackers and a pack of  Winstons, then part the curtain of heavy smoke that pervaded the newsroom and set out to do her daily pages.

As she adapted her “key strokes” to the ultra sensitive keys, it took weeks for her to learn NOT to touch the key unless she REALLY wanted that letter at THAT time. The keys seemed to have a mind of their own. And heaven forbid if she wanted to just rest her head on her forearms draped over the carriage. From out of the blue, words of gibberish appeared on the paper! New sounds filled the room as reporters typed away, accompanied by the unique audio of teletypes coming from the copy room, phones ringing and keys humming like bees – a newsroom symphony!

 Then one day the wicked step-publisher of our story appeared and announced that the newsroom would be converting to using computers! “Woe is me!” was all that Meg could think. She saw her career possibilities doomed, as she had never even touched a computer. But the arrival of her new computer occurred, and it began to take the words from her brain and morph them into the print on the pages. It took time, but she came to love the modern marvel. Quiet? Just like the clucks of contented chickens! Easy to handle? You’ve got that right! An editor’s dream? No doubt about it.

 Out of the blue one day, Meg was asked to consider hosting a live show on local television station WNGM-34. Without any formal training, and a Southern drawl as thick as molasses, she did her dead level best to learn to be a broadcaster. Two hours of live morning television was daunting, to say the least. But it was “a living.” Her life, however, was consumed by her work, as she had to rise each morning at 5 a.m. and be on the set ready to air at 7 on the dot. After the end of each show, she spent the rest of the day producing the next broadcasts. Grueling doesn’t do this task justice.

 And then along came Prince Charming in the person of brilliant scientist, professor of biochemistry and retired Marine Corps Colonel, Leon Dure. Her life took a 360-degree turn into retirement. He placed Princess Meg on a pedestal and elevated her title to Highland Queen, a position she still holds today after 14 years of wedded bliss. Queenie then only wrote when it was necessary to pen a sympathy or thank you note. But one day Rebecca McCarthy asked if she would consider diving back into the world of writing via a daily web news service called Athens Patch, and Queenie was thrilled.

 The time was just right for Meg to shake her brain out of the mothballs and give it a try once again. She was fascinated with this new form of communication.

She could actually sit at her Mac in the comfort of her castle– compose thoughts and tap them out to the screen. Then whamo! The column could be zapped to Rebecca at Athens Patch.com and Meg could then fix herself a glass of wine!

 And so the story goes. The fairy tale of a small town newspaperwoman turned webster. Please, fairy godreaders, let me live happily ever after.

Paula Galland April 09, 2011 at 11:24 PM
What I want to know is when did you quit double spacing after the period? What an adjustment!
Kris Bakowski April 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Meg -- so glad to see you back in "print". Thanks to Rebecca for bringing you out of retirement. I'm glad you have made it through the technology learning curve and are publishing once again. I can't thank you enough for everything you did for me while I was working as well as all the projects you have done over the years. Welcome back, Meg!
Carroll Wellman Dupree April 10, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Meg, I just can't wait to read your articles. You are gifted and it needs to be shared. I cried when I read the part about you and Leon. You have to be one of the sweetest people I know and I mean it. Being beautiful as you are on the outside is special, but your your inner beauty is even more beautiful. Girl, you have it all! The great part is that you feel your blessings. I love you and can't wait until next week. Love, Oby
Norma Patterson April 10, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Meg...You nailed it again, fellow journalist. Remember the nights we spent literally "pasting up" the Thumb Tack Tribune? As your classmate in UGA's Grady College (class of 1969), I am so pleased that you are once again sharing your talents via AthensPatch.com. Needless to say, Dean Drewry would be proud! I look forward to seeing you again before long. Norma Patterson Augusta, GA
Carole Yoho April 11, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Love that I will be hearing your voice on a regular basis. What a joy!


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