Patricia Beck started work at the Leader Herald back when the paper had truck-sized mainframe computers and a functioning dark room.
“We thought it was the best business in the world, even then,” she said. “We didn’t know the days of Dick Tracy were actually coming.”
Now the darkroom is the break room, photographers email photos from the field and Beck is retiring from her longtime post as Leader Herald publisher.
“It’s just time to retire,” she said. “I’ve been at this 34 years.”
Beck, now 64, started her career in journalism at local radio stations WMVQ and WKOL. She ended up working at The Recorder in Amsterdam for 10 years before moving over to the Leader in 1990. She came on as advertising director, rising to publisher six years later.
A lot has changed since her first years in journalism, but Beck said the bones of the business are still the same.
“It’s still a huge amount of work,” she said. “Our reporters and editors create a brand-new product every single solitary day. What other business does that?”
The advent of digital cameras and smartphones, and the proliferation of Internet access sped up the whole process. In some ways it got easier.
“There used to be composition rooms, where people laid out the paper manually,” she said.
Desktop computers ended that era in the early 1990s at the Leader. In some ways, Beck said, technology made things more difficult. “We have to be really careful that what we’re putting out there so fast is actually correct,” she said.
Beck’s last day of work will be March 31. On April 1, the Leader will be under new leadership. Beck said the paper’s parent company Ogden will soon select someone to replace her.
“She’ll be truly missed,” said Toni Mosconi, the Leader’s circulation director. “She was always around to help fix our problems.”
After 34 years in a high-stress industry, Beck said she’ll be glad to relax. Through her decades at the Leader, she didn’t exactly go easy on herself.
She’s served on a slew of charity boards and area organizations, including as chairwoman of both the Montgomery and Fulton county chambers of commerce before they merged, as well as the United Way of both counties.
She was also the first female president of the New York News Publishers Association.
In an interview last Wednesday, Beck struggled to remember all her volunteer efforts, but she’s scaling back her current involvement.
“I did a lot of that because it was good for the paper,” she said. “It kept us on the pulse of the community.”
Going forward, Beck said she’ll stay on the board of the Montgomery County United Way, along with working with the Shuttleworth Park Foundation in her home city of Amsterdam.
“I’m looking forward to reading an entire book without being interrupted,” she said.
When asked what titles she plans to enjoy, she said anything that has nothing to do with the gathering or publication of news.
The paper, she’s confident, will be fine without her.