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‘I just kept doing my job’

Springfield editor has been a fixture at newspaper for 60 years

Doris Weber interviews someone outside the Advance-Press office in Springfield. Weber has been working at the newspaper since 1958. Photo by Scott Thoma

The Advance-Press of Springfield is now 132 years old. And one employee has worked at that newspaper in southern Minnesota for nearly half of that time.

After graduating from high school in 1958, Doris Weber took on a job at the Advance-Press. And on Jan. 9 of this year, the personable and well-known managing editor marked her 60th year with the paper.

“I never thought much about the years,” Weber said. “I just kept doing my job. Now people ask me about it and I have to say that I never dreamed I would be doing this job that long. It wasn’t a goal of mine to work for 60 years, much less all at the same place.”

Keeping busy has never been a problem for Weber. Besides working full time at the paper, she still manages to “squeeze in” a few other activities.

One of the most popular events in this small town is the Live Nativity Pageant that has been ongoing since 1986. Weber is one of the founding members of SANTA, which stands for Springfield Area Nativity Theatre Association that hosts the Live Nativity Pageant. She has been SANTA’s secretary for all 32 years.

Weber has also been a board member of the Springfield Area Community Center for 18 years after serving on its campaign and planning committees. She is also the current president of the Springfield Area Historical Society, a member of the Springfield Rotary Club for 30 years (she was the first female to be received), is on the Advisory Committee for Springfield Community Education, and also delivers Meals on Wheels.

And to think some people moan and groan about just having to take out the trash.

“I like to stay busy, I guess,” she said, humbly.

But for all those extra-curricular activities, Weber is best known as the “Newspaper Lady” to a lot of local residents. She has covered the birth of a child to someone’s death, and nearly everything in between in her six decades.

“I can’t think of anything that stands out more than any others over all these years,” she said, when asked. “And I can’t think of any particular story that I wrote that is the most memorable. I have covered and attended so many different events that none is more important to me than another.”

Weber did admit that one of the things that gives her the most pleasure is to see the face of a young child light up when she takes his/her picture.

“That’s the best,” she said. “They always give a big smile. And when they see me some other time after that, they always remember me and say ‘Hey, there’s the lady that took my picture.’ It’s the little things like that day to day that makes this such a good job.”

Weber grew up on a grain and dairy farm in rural Wanda, where she also attended elementary school. She attended high school in Lamberton for her freshman and sophomore years; then finished her final two years at Wabasso.

Upon graduating, Weber landed a job doing office work that summer with Dr. A.M. Lowry, a veterinarian in Wanda. The wife of Dr. Lowry worked at the newspaper in Springfield, but left her position there after giving birth and informed Weber about the opening at the newspaper.

“We basically switched jobs,” Weber recalled. “I applied and got the job at the newspaper in 1958, and she eventually ended up working for her husband.”

Weber had a desire to work for a paper. Her parents always subscribed to the newspaper, and Doris would read it each week. Her interest in journalism was also instilled by a comic strip, Jane Arden, which ran from 1927-1968 and was about a “spunky” female newspaper reporter.

“I’ve always enjoyed reading the newspaper and that comic strip,” she remarked. “And I worked on the school newspaper with a group of my friends.”

Weber started out in the Advance-Press office as a receptionist and bookkeeper. She also was responsible for making calls and compiling information for the society section of the paper.

“I got to know the people of the community well,” she said. “I also wrote the weddings and obituaries for the paper. That was before the funeral homes would send us the information like they do now. I would have to call the family for the information. That was a sad part of the job.”

Don Peterson purchased the newspaper in 1965. His daughter and son-in-law, D.J. and Peter Hedstrom, respectively, are the current owners and publishers.

Doris holds up a copy of the first paper she had a hand in putting out on Jan. 16, 1958. Photo by Scott Thoma

“When my dad bought the paper, Doris came with it,” D.J. laughed. “And she’s still here. She is an amazing asset to both the newspaper and the community. She does a tremendous job.”

As the years went by, Weber’s duties changed as the newspaper industry changed. She worked with hot lead, address-o-graph and paste-up, while also proofreading pages, selling advertising, taking photos, and writing, among other duties.

“I was then asked if I would rather sell advertising or write,” she said. “I was a little reticent about it at first, but I decided on writing stories.”

That was in 1982 when Weber then became the managing editor/news editor.

Weber has the same work ethic she had when she started in the profession. She feels it’s important for a weekly paper to cover local events, such as school board and city council meetings.

“You need to if you really want to know what’s going on,” she said. “It keeps you in touch with the city and school.”

And, in turn, it keeps the readers in touch with local happenings.

Covering events for many years can be both a positive and negative experience.

“I enjoy getting a chance to go to all the events,” Weber said. “But you also realize you are still on duty and have a job to do. And sometimes you have to focus on your job so you can’t sit with your friends and talk.”

Weber’s work at the newspaper and other community organizations has not gone unnoticed. Her office walls reflect several awards she has been given for her efforts.

KEYC-TV in Mankato awarded her its Jefferson Good People Award in August.

“I felt good about that because I was nominated by an educator,” she said.

But even a seasoned veteran like Weber can get a little nervous when the tables are turned on her.

The television station came to her office in Springfield to film her receiving the award.

“I was a little nervous,” she admitted with a big smile. “Here I’ve been interviewing people for all these years, and then when someone interviewed me, I got nervous. I think it was the camera, though.”

Weber also received the Spirit of Springfield Award in 2010, which is given by the local Chamber of Commerce to a community member in appreciation for their service to the community.

“She’s still spry and able to do many things,” said Hedstrom. “And she is very devoted to this community.”

One of the reasons Weber said she is able to work full time into her late 70s, while also being so involved in a myriad of organizations and volunteer work, is that she was never married, nor had any children.

“No doubt about it,” she said. “There is no way I could have done it for this long if I was married.”

She does have a large family, though, with four brothers, four sisters, 42 nieces and nephews, and several grandnieces and grandnephews.

Weber knows the importance of a hometown newspaper and enjoys being a part of it.

“It’s so interesting to be a part of so many people’s lives,” she remarked. “And the paper has given me that opportunity. The community feels the paper is theirs.”

One of the worst parts of working for a newspaper is the deadline. It comes at you like a cold Arctic blast, and being prepared for it is paramount to putting out a successful paper week after week.

But Weber puts a positive spin on a deadline.

“Even though deadlines can be a big stress, they can also be a tremendous motivator,” she said. “You can’t put off your work. It has to be done at that time. And you feel so much better when you made the deadline.”

And for Weber, there is no deadline as to when she will hang up her notepad and pen and call it a career.

“I never felt I wanted to retire,” Weber said. “My friends tell me not to worry about it because I’ll know when it’s time. I guess I’ll keep going as long as I feel good.”

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