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Secondhand Paper Lion

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power, mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil." – Hub McCann.

First, please excuse the headline. It is used – unabashedly – as word play from two of my favorite films: "Secondhand Lions" and "Paper Lion."

As a means of self-introduction to Nip Impressions readers, I'll share that I have been in the printing industry for the past 33 years.

After many years in the family surveying business, my "paper profession" began in October 1980. A few weeks later, Ronald Reagan was elected as the 39th president of the United States. I like to think there was some coincidental connection. After all, I voted for President Reagan (twice).

One of my first tasks in the printing industry was that of a paper slitter. Sure, I know, you're wondering right now: "How much paper could a paper-slitter slit, if a paper-slitter could slit paper?"

Well, the answer is a lot. In a 12-hour shift at Rotary Forms Press, Inc. in Hillsboro, Ohio, it was not unusual to slit 12 (one per hour) or more 2,000-pound, 52-inch mill logs down to standard press-size rolls. In a single shift, machine operators routinely cut 12 tons of paper down to the various sizes for scheduled offset press runs. It was a young man's job, to be sure.

After a few years of operating the paper slitter, I moved on to the presses. In the mid-1980s, I earned my Master Printer of America press card. After a decade in this part of the paper and press industry, I ventured out into the non-factory world – albeit with less hearing and more muscle.

In 1990, fate (and a classified ad) brought me to a small-town, twice-weekly newspaper where I served – in title – as a sports editor; but in reality, would learn to write on everything from obituaries to public board meetings and chicken dinner announcements.

In 1993, boredom got the best of me again. This time, I moved to a seven-day-a-week newspaper in Portsmouth, Ohio. That stint lasted a couple of years. From 1994-2009, I served three different Ohio newspapers as publisher and editor. I've published several books, including one or two that were almost legible.

In the summer of 2009 – after trying my best not to do anything stupid for more than a decade, I purchased a newspaper in the midst of the recent Great Recession.

(When I discussed this potential purchase with the bank that has held a good portion of my money since the late 1970s, my loan was declined. Across the street, a locally owned bank approved the loan and earned my future business.)

For the past four years, I have owned and operated The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio.

Through all these years, I have written extensively on local, state and national politics and government.

My interest in Paperitalo Publications seems a natural fit. When discussing this new association with Jim Thompson, it occurred to me that while my "paper profession" is more than three decades in the making, there's still a whole new world of paper of which I'm familiar more on the user end than the producer end.

In the coming weeks, should this new venture work out to everyone's satisfaction, I'd like to share my thoughts on politics and government and the impact proposed legislation may have on this industry.

At times, readers from Ohio may discover that I think highly of freshman Congressman Dr. Brad Wenstrup from Cincinnati. Readers in Arkansas may discover that I think just as highly of Congressman Tom Cotton of Dardanelle in Yell County. Readers in Massachusetts, well, you may be out of luck. (I'll try not to ask "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot?" about your political preferences in the Bay State.)

If my recent research is accurate, mankind has been making paper since 105 A.D., when Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese court official, first made paper from mulberry bark. Almost 14 centuries later, Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press (and was named Man of the Millennium for his efforts in the 1400s).

Suffice it to say, paper – in all its glorious and not-so-glorious uses – is as much a fabric of our culture as the family heirlooms.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press in southern Ohio. He is a guest columnist for Nip Impressions.


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