Today on Conversations with Cassie

Not sure thrilled would be the right word for it, but that is the feeling I endured when I learned I was going to interview Amy Henderson. 

Mrs. Henderson graduated from Troy University with a degree in journalism and minors in creative writing and English. Then, she worked for a newspaper in Georgia for 3 years, which was a twice weekly newspaper. That is where she met her husband and later, they got married in Atlanta.

The best thing about working in for a news company to Mrs. Henderson is getting to tell people’s stories. She likes to write and is a curious person. She enjoys talking to individuals, hearing their story, and then getting to share it afterwards. 

The hardest part of the job, Mrs. Henderson felt, was how little time or resources there was to do all the stories that she would like to do. Some takes more research than others. She explained that you would have to do a lot of phone calls and online research, which takes more time and because things are happening so quickly, they do not have the time they need. When it came to complaints, Mrs. Henderson points out that people may not understand how the media works, to which she has to explain how it works and why something had happened the way it did. 

Mrs. Henderson told me that they are trying to improve their planning for certain times of the year. They try to do stories on special events such as the impending anniversary of women’s rights to vote. She mentioned they try to plan out the year, they do not do just newspapers, they also have magazines. Each month, public meetings take place and that is an important event for them to cover.

The company is pretty busy during its hours, such as if somebody was working on a story, and they are waiting for someone to call them back, that’s when they get on a phone call with another person, and everyone that’s been called, will call you back at the same time. They print 5 newspapers at Cullman Times, which is not only their newspapers being printed, they also print 4 other newspapers to cities outside of Cullman. In the press room, people start coming in at around 4:30 or 5:00 and work until midnight. Newspapers are being delivered in the middle of the night to various post offices. 

The story that Mrs. Henderson will always remember happened right after she joined the Times. She did a story about a gentleman’s body that was found on the side of the road, foul play was not expected. They were looking for his family, although they did know who he was, they did not know how to get in touch with his family because he was a person that traveled around the country. It was suspected he hitched rides from truck drivers. She posted it on their website that the sheriff’s office had been looking for his family. The family saw the post and a cousin contacted Mrs. Henderson. The family was distressed and uncertain how they would afford the cremation of their late family member. Mrs. Henderson sat down and did an interview with his cousin, where she adds that it was important to her because in the newspaper business, whenever someone really famous passes away, you write about that person. This man spent most of his adult life traveling around doing jobs here and there, where she states that he was no less important to his family than a really known person, and felt that it was really important for people to see him as a human being that was loved and had love for other people. 

When it comes to access to events, Mrs. Henderson explains that they are given passes to cover things they are only working, but the enthusiasm is not what one would expect. The enthusiasm comes from wondering who they are going to talk to, how they are going to get to them, what photos they are going to get, and how much time they are going to have. 

When it comes to famous people, Mrs. Henderson has interviewed someone that some people may recognize, Roy Clark. Roy Clark is from the classic show, Hee-haw. He was doing a concert that she had attended and interviewed him. She also interviewed politicians when she was editor of the newspapers at Troy University, which is where she attended college. She has also interviewed George Wallace, a former governor of Alabama.  

Discussing the difference between early days of newspapers and delivering them to the public to now, Mrs. Henderson believes that the paper itself has not changed. When she first started, there were a lot more people. Based on the size of the Cullman Times building, at one point in time, it used to be filled with people. When she first started, there was 3 or 4 people who worked in the composition room and it would take hours to print off the newspapers. The people in the composition room would dummy the paper, print off a copy of the paper, then wax and cut it out with a knife. They would then place it on a big sheet of paper and would take it to the dark room where they took pictures of it, made plates, and then they put it on the press. They now have one person who can lay out the newspaper on the computer, and no longer requires multiple people to cut and paste the papers. People are now looking at their phones more, which has caused many things to become digitalized. However, to Mrs. Henderson, the basics of journalism itself remained the same. 

Since social media has taken over, I asked Mrs. Henderson if having access to the news seemed as important as it used to. She told me that she believes it is even more important now that we have access to the news because of the presence of social media. She says that through social media, you are being fed only what they think you want to see based off of the information and articles you click on, and what stories you do read because they then base ads off of the information you look up. She believes it creates a bubble where your world view is only what you see. In that bubble, they are giving you varieties of information where you are going to see one viewpoint or one type of news. However, you need to know what is happening all around you. That is why local news is so important because they give information of the happenings that go on in your local area.  

Mrs. Henderson believes a big problem we have comes from the big cable news networks. They air 24/7 and are constantly filling their station with content of opinions and panels of people who do not tell you what the news actually is. The problem is that people are only watching for entertainment. Studies have shown that people do not know what the difference between news and opinions are. 

Mrs. Henderson’s impression of Cullman is that it is a great place to raise kids. The schools are excellent, and people really care about the children. There is a big community effort to make sure that children are safe and have a good upbringing. Of course, there is always improvements that could be done. She says that is it unfortunate that the kids are going off to college and not coming back. She believes that the city and county need to look at ways to attract young professionals. There are many manufacturing jobs and housing is an issue as well. We need more places for younger people to live and things for them to do to keep them coming back to Cullman.

That wraps up on today’s discussion on Conversations with Cassie. I have to say that I enjoyed interviewing Mrs. Henderson. She is a wonderful person, and it has been a lovely experience visiting the Cullman Times. I was in awe when I walked into the building. Learning about what she does and hearing the stories she shared really amazes me.  I get really excited because, like her, I am curious about a lot of things as well.