FROM THE EXPRESS TO NOW
An In Depth Exploration of the History of News in the Railroad City With the Man That Made It for Nearly 50 Years; A Posthumous Release
Courtesy photo of Owen Rood
I told him my story -- a Railroader born and raised, a Durand graduate, a longtime radio guy learning more about print news; little formal journalism experience or training but well-versed in social and digital.
I told him that I started Durand Now because I felt the absence of The Durand Express, and I thought other people felt it too. I told him that I modeled the site after the Express and hope that it is, or is one day, as appreciated by readers as the Express was.
He is Owen Rood, Durand's true news man, for nearly five decades.
He agreed to answer the myriad of questions that I had, ranging from what readers most enjoyed and what they weren't as receptive to, to what people and organizations were easy to deal with and the ones that weren't, to the style of font he preferred to why the paper was published on Thursdays as opposed to the other six days of the week, and many, many other random questions.
Because Owen had some health challenges, rather than sit and interview him for an extended period of time, I submitted all my questions to him through his wife, Inez. Over the weeks that followed, in small sessions, Inez would read the questions to Owen and then transcribe his answers.
He answered many of my questions, including one about his most-talked about story ever. It happened in the 1980s but you'll be shocked when you see how closely it parallels the biggest story in Durand of this year!
Sadly, before he was able to answer all my questions, Owen passed away, on February 27th 2017, at the age of 94.
In this special to Durand Now, "From The Express to Now," I want to share with you Owen's perspective on our little corner of the world, and how he delivered it to our community for five decades.
Owen Rood purchased The Durand Express in 1952 and published the newspaper until selling to Mark Zale in 1988, but soon returned to, again, run the newspaper in 1992. He finally retired in 1997 when he, again, sold the newspaper; this time to the Argus-Press.
The many fond thoughts and memories of The Durand Express that residents today still share, are largely a reflection of Rood's passion for his community, local news and service over the course of all those years.
Moreover, Rood is credited with having "planted the seed" that inspired the woman for whom the initiative to save Durand Union Station is largely attributed to; Norma Ward was determined not to allow the depot's demise after Grand Trunk abandoned it in the mid-1970s and it all started when Rood published a plea for someone or some organization to take over the facility.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that when asked, aside from the name, what impact the railroad and our city's heritage had on content in The Durand Express, Owen said "at least fifty percent."
Serving Durand, Bancroft, Lennon, Byron, Gaines, Swartz Creek and Railfans everywhere for 5 years!
Questions About Content
DN: If you could identify the most critical elements of the newspaper --- the thing or things that people specifically picked up The Durand Express to read about, what would they be?
OWEN: Activities that are occurring in city and county also sporting and band activities.
DN: What types of stories did you find were of the most interest to readers?
OWEN: Accidents and police blotter
DN: If you had two big stories, how would you decide which to publish on the front page?
OWEN: I would attempt to put both on the front page at least in part.
DN: Did you find it challenging to work with or receive information from local government? Schools? Churches?
OWEN: Yes, especially schools and churches.
DN: Was attending city council, school board, and other meetings necessary, or would important issues always find their way to you?
OWEN: I always attended both.
DN: Did you attend all district sporting events to capture pictures and write sports updates, or did you focus on specific sports?
OWEN: I mostly focused on football and baseball.
DN: When you got a lead on a big story and had a publishing deadline, would you publish the information you had available or would you wait until you had complete information and run it later?
OWEN: I would wait until I had the complete story.
DN: What would you do if you believed something story-worthy to be true but had not yet confirmed it. Would you run the story and qualify it as “unconfirmed” or would you wait until the information was confirmed?
OWEN: I would wait until the story was confirmed.
DN: What would you do if the person that was able to confirm or deny information you needed for a story refused to confirm or deny (or did not respond to your request for information)? Would you include in your story that The Durand Express had requested comment but had not received it?
OWEN: I would publish it as unconfirmed and add that I had requested confirmation but had not received it.
DN: Were there types of stories that you would choose not to run?
OWEN: Yes if they were slippery or sleazy type stories.
DN: Were there ever certain elements that you wanted to have as part of the paper in order to, perhaps, provide the reader a “well rounded” experience?
OWEN: Yes, Good Deed stories
DN: Did you ever incorporate “teases” for the next edition of The Durand Express?
OWEN: No, not intentionally
DN: Aside from the name, what impact did the railroad and our city’s heritage have on content in The Durand Express?
OWEN: At least fifty percent.
DN: Is there a story from The Durand Express that you could call “the most talked about” story?
OWEN: Yes, it was probably the day after I published an April Fools story about a new factory opening just north of Lansing highway. Not everyone saw the humor to put it lightly.
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