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News publisher reflects on retiring

Moore departs after 47 years at Enterprise, 31 as boss of two newspapers

Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise Publisher Catherine Moore poses at her desk in Saranac Lake on Thursday, Aug. 6 after an unofficial exit interview with News Editor Andy Flynn. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

SARANAC LAKE — When Catherine Hovland came to this village from Florida to study at North Country Community College in 1972, she wanted to be an art teacher. But life didn’t work out that way.

A year later, she began working part time for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in the circulation department for Jim Bishop and earned a two-year degree at NCCC.

“I needed more money to go to Plattsburgh State, and so I started working,” she said.

Instead of transferring to Plattsburgh State, she stayed at the newspaper and made a career of it. She married Jack Moore on Sept. 8, 1974 at St. Bernard’s Church and bought a home in Saranac Lake later that month.

Now, after 47 years in the newspaper business — and 31 years being the publisher of the Enterprise and Lake Placid News — Catherine Moore is retiring at the age of 67 from her “accidental career.” Her last day is Friday, Aug. 14.

Moore sat down with the News on Thursday, Aug. 6 to talk about her life and career.

LPN: Who was Catherine Hovland?

CM: I was born in St. James (Long Island), and we moved to Stony Brook. I met my husband in Stony Brook, and we dated for about a year (she is a year younger). And my father, who was a lineman for the Long Island Lighting Company, decided he wanted to move to (Naples) Florida with his family and open a marina. (She was 16 at the time, and after high school graduation, she attended Edison Junior College in Fort Myers for a year, studying art.)

… Meanwhile, Jack and I wrote letters back and forth. … I just was dying to go back to New York. … I came here, and my husband was going to college up here, so that’s how I ended up in Saranac Lake.

… I had just landed here, and this (building) was a bar, and I said, “I love this place. I never want to leave.” It happened to be a year later they made this the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

LPN: What did you first do at the newspaper?

CM: I applied for a job at the Enterprise that said assistant circulation manager, which sounded like something I don’t think I could attain to. And then I found out it’s just counting all the change of the carriers. And I would sneak into the ad department saying, “Do you need anything drawn for your ads?” That way I could be creative.

Unfortunately, the ad manager at the time, Joe Drutz, he died of a heart attack while playing a basketball game against the radio station. So they were short-handed. It was Fred Mader and Joe Drutz, and they needed someone in the ad department, so they put me in there. Not knowing anything about it and being very shy, it was a real change to go out and see people. It was two years after I started here.

I loved it. I got to use my art abilities, and since I wasn’t much of a talker, I’d sketch something out in front of them and say, “And how about this?” And they’d go, “Oh, OK. I like that.”

… And then I became ad manager (in 1978), and that was just before the Olympics. That was an exciting time. … We were the unofficial Olympic paper, and we sold 40 tabloid pages (in the Olympic Digest) for 14 days, which was unheard of.

LPN: Did you ever get a degree from Plattsburgh State?

CM: No. Because I kept getting promotions here, I ended up liking it here. … This worked out well because being an art teacher, when I give tours to the kids around here, I lose my voice after a few minutes. So I said, “If I was a teacher, I think it would be difficult.”

And this has been a fun job because you learn every single day. And it’s always something different. You’re not in a grind. You’re not stuck doing the same repetitive job.

… I came when we had typewriters and rotary phones, and the day they said, “Would you like to buy a fax?” I’m going, “Why would I buy a fax? Nobody else has one.” Then all of a sudden the next day, “What’s your fax number?” And I said, “I guess I better buy a fax.” And copiers and digital cameras …

LPN: With the Olympics, is there one memory that stands out?

CM: I shouldn’t tell this story. But it was a person who came in and wanted to get an ad in late. Dave Munn (the production manager) was here at the time, and I went back. I said, “Can we get an ad in late?” And he said, “He’s got to do it right now.” So I said, “If you can sit down and give me the copy right now, we’ll get it in.” He sits down and puts all the stuff down and says, “I’ve got to get some cold medicine.” I said, “OK, do it quick.” Well, it might have been a half an hour. He comes back, and I said, “It’s really too late now. You’ve wasted too much time, and we can’t take it.” He said, “Oh yes! You’re going to take my ad.” I said, “No, I’m sorry.” “Yes you are,” and he hands me 800 dollars in ones. And I said, “No, I’m sorry, you have to leave.” … Bill Doolittle (the publisher) came in and physically picked him up by the nape of his neck and threw him on the sidewalk. … That’s something you can’t do nowadays.

LPN: What did you learn from Bill Doolittle?

CM: He always asked me to get prepayment, and I was very trusting. I remember calling on a farm that used to advertise big pages with us. And he says, “You’ve got to get prepayment.” I fell in love with these people. I’d hold her baby while she wrote down the copy. And she called me late that night. She goes, “Cathy, I’m sorry, I can’t pay you and we’re leaving in the middle of the night. I’m sorry. Nice knowing you.” And off she went. And I had to tell Bill that. And he said, “Don’t trust anybody, not even your brother.” … I learned my lesson after that.

LPN: With the coronavirus pandemic, is this the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career?

CM: I’d say it is. I mean it has its good points that people realize how important a newspaper is. They need to know. Has there been any cases, any deaths, any hospitalizations during COVID? So we came with the digital subscription in the nick of time; our circulation has grown because people want to know what’s happening locally and how things run, what stores are open and what stores aren’t. …

It’s been challenging, but newspapers just before this, it’s been very challenging with the misinformation, and the criticism of the media by people has been unwarranted. When you think of us as a local newspaper, we’re not here with a big agenda. We’re here to make sure we’re the watchdog of the community.

A closer look back

Moore’s time span at the helm of the Enterprise is tied with the 31-year term of John Ridenour, who owned the paper from 1918 to 1949 and made it a six-day-a-week daily in 1926. It is still the only daily newspaper published inside the Adirondack Park.

When Doolittle retired in 1989, he recommended Ogden hire Moore to succeed him.

“Cathy was the natural choice,” Doolittle told the Enterprise for its 125th anniversary special section last year. “She was the leader by then.”

“Over a fantastic career, Cathy Moore showed you can be a genuine, level-headed person even in the chaos that often ensues while putting out a daily publication,” said John Penney, the Enterprise’s managing editor from 1989 to 1998 who now handles communications for the city of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County. “I truly hope people recognize and celebrate all the hard work that she has put in for the betterment of the community.”

Moore oversaw many changes in her first decade at the helm: going from black-and-white to color, switching from paste-up to computer page layout, upping the Enterprise from five days to six (it had previously been six from 1926 to 1962), and celebrating the Enterprise’s 100th anniversary. In her second decade as publisher the paper switched to digital photography, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Lake Placid News in 2005, added numerous special sections and got a computer-to-plate machine that let it skip several steps in the pre-press process. Her third decade has been largely marked by weathering the survival struggles all local newspapers have faced since the 2008 recession.

The newspapers’ staff has stayed at a relatively steady level, even though — as with newspapers nationwide — circulation and advertising have declined since a 1990s peak.

“We have good journalists and a good staff, and they deserve to be paid,” Moore said in an interview for the Enterprise’s 125th anniversary.

The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid were among the wilder times of her career, when she was dealing with national advertising clients for a seven-day-a-week special the Enterprise and News published during the games, called the Daily Olympic Digest. During her time as publisher, the papers have sent reporters to three Winter Olympics in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

Moore’s current and former colleagues and members of the community described her as positive-minded yet grounded, committed to readers and driven to find the revenue needed to keep the papers going.

“She is so bright, always committed to the community, and a lovely person,” said Jim Rogers of Lake Placid, who with his wife owned the Saranac Lake-based radio station WNBZ from 1963 to 1998.

“Cathy is the consummate example of a publisher — dedicated to her community, a savvy businesswoman who kept the presses running constantly, and, importantly, fearless,” said Ed Forbes, who worked at the Enterprise from 2002 to 2004 and was Lake Placid News editor from 2004 to 2007.

Moore has also been a board member of the New York Press Association, New York News Publishers Association and both organizations’ foundations.

“Cathy Moore is a fabulous friend and a great cheerleader for community newspapers,” said Michelle Rea, executive director of the New York Press Association.

“More than most, you can attest to the titanic changes that have buffeted newspapers over the decades,” said Christopher Mele, a New York Times editor who got his start as an Enterprise reporter from 1986 to 1988, addressing his comment to Moore. “But through all of them, you’ve been a steady guiding presence. If ever you were frustrated or disappointed by a setback, I can’t say you ever let it show. You have been a stalwart advocate for the value of local community news.”