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HISTORY

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

Posted by Josh Strickland at 11:00am 2/25/18

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_CHAPTER ONE

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."

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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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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

Posted by Josh Strickland at 11:00am 2/26/18

_CHAPTER TWO

DN: When I was growing up The Durand Express was delivered on Thursdays. Was this always the case? Is Thursday a better day than others?
OWEN: Yes, because Thursday was an ideal day as it was the day when people prepared their shopping list.

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Durand Now is constantly being updated. It's not always a new story. While some days multiple stories get posted, other days none do. But, in most cases, if you don't see a new story posted on the front page, there's some kind of "inside page" update occurring.

From day one, Thursday and Sunday have carried a greater weight than the other days of the week. In part, because of the traditional Express Thursday delivery and the quintessential "Sunday paper" expectation. Thursday and Sunday are the days that trending content is updated and are often the days that the most story content is posted to Durand Now network sites.

 Another reason for these as the days of heightened importance is the theory that a Sunday update gives visitors fresh content to start the week with and a Thursday update gives visitors fresh content to start the weekend with.

There's no question that the old saying is true; "if it bleeds, it leads." In 25, 50, 100 years, not much has changed. As Owen said was true in his time, accidents and police blotter are still the most read, most shared stories, as a rule.

Owen said that for a well-rounded reader experience he liked to include "Good Deed" stories. In some ways, The Durand Now Network has done the same. Uplift Shiawassee ("UpShia") is a local good news site. You'll find stories from throughout the county, but all are positive. UpShia launched in November of 2014. In January of 2017 UpShia presented the first A-LIST, giving visitors the chance to vote for their favorite Shiawassee county businesses. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast.

Questions About Layout

DN: The "Old English" font/logo for The Durand Express is the one with which I am most familiar, however, I have seen editions with a different font. What can you tell me about this?
OWEN: I used the Old English font for the most part but at times like Halloween, Christmas, New years, etc..., I would use a different font.

DN: "An invited guest in the home of..." Did you seek permission to use peoples' names each week?
OWEN: Sometimes but not always.

DN: Did you ever think about changing the name of The Durand Express?
OWEN: No.

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Reprint of the first-ever edition of The Durand Express, dated July 12th 1888. Published by T.R. Chapin.

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Reprint of a 1904 edition of The Durand Express, dated May 26th 1904. Published by Express Pub. Co.

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Bicentennial Edition of The Durand Express, dated July 1st 1976. Published by Owen Rood.

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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

Posted by Josh Strickland at 11:00am 2/27/18

_CHAPTER THREE

DN: Did you publish memories or “on this date” historical facts or vignettes?
OWEN: I may have at times.

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Just like this special to Durand Now, "From The Express To Now," chronicles an important period of local journalism, one of the most intentional, critical functions of this website is, and has always been, to collect, create and preserve local history; facts, photos, videos, stories and more, can all be found on our HERITAGE pages.

Questions About The Durand Express History

DN: As best you can recall, can you document the owner/publisher history of The Durand Express? How long were you publisher?
OWEN: 52 years

DN: As best you can recall, can you document the various locations at which The Durand Express was situated?
OWEN: It was on Main across from the Depot. I moved it to Genesee street, its final location in 1961. I bought the Genesee location from Merrit Dean.

DN: How many employees did The Durand Express have when you were publisher?
OWEN: It varied but usually 8 to 10.

Through our own research, we have assembled the following timeline of Express ownership:

T.R. (Theodore) Chapin published the first edition of The Durand Express on July 12th 1888. In 1897, records show the publisher of the paper was E.T. Kellogg. In 1898, the paper was purchased by M.L. Izor. In 1910, Harry L. Izor purchased the paper from his father and owned it until his death in 1941. Records show that Express Pub. Co. was the name used for the publishing entity in 1910. M.B. Gallagher, Lui Ring, Cleland Wylie and James K. Ellis all served as editors for a time, until Ellis and his wife Thelma bought the paper in 1947. In 1952 they sold the paper to Owen and Betty Rood. In 1988, Owen sold the paper to Mark and Ellen Zale. In 1992 Rood returned to ownership until 1997, when he sold The Durand Express again, this time to Thomas E. Campbell, owner of The Argus-Press.

Through our own research, we have assembled the following details of the Express' physical locations:

In the late 1800s, The Durand Express was located at the present Kathy's School of Dance location, where the former Ben Franklin building now stands. It is seen below in a photo that appeared in a 1976 Bicentennial publication. 

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Later, the paper's office was moved across the street and down the block, to 103 N. Saginaw Street, the former Bill's Shoe Repair building.

In the late 1940s, The Durand Express was housed at 200 E. Main Street, in what would later be Pierce Motor Sales. In 1951, the Express again moved across the street, this time to 203 E. Main Street, in the building next to the new Union Station Smokehouse restaurant, as seen below in a photo that appeared in The Durand Express in 1966.

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Rood said he moved the paper to its final Genesee Street location in 1961. He was referring to the Saginaw Street location where Shaw's Pharmacy is now located. The building's parking lot is situated along Genesee Street.

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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

Posted by Josh Strickland at 11:00am 2/28/18

_CHAPTER FOUR

DN: Did you have specific price points for different types of ads or was pricing customized to an ad’s size and where it was placed on a page?
OWEN: It was customized by the size and placement and how often they ran an ad. There were variables.

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Questions About Sales/Advertising

Owen answered several questions about sales and advertising strategies. Let's just say that we're just going to tuck that part of the interview away for a rainy day.

Sadly, Owen didn't get to answer any more questions before he was hospitalized. And there were many more questions. But, it's possible that you may be able to answer some of them. They are our questions about Durand. Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts and what you know by emailing us at breaking@durandnow.com.

Questions About Durand

DN: Is there one business that you can recall that made a huge splash when it opened? Why were people so excited about it?
YOU:

DN: Is there one business that you can recall that damaged the community when it closed?
YOU:

DN: Is there a community event that you can recall that was particularly beneficial to Durand?
YOU:

DN: Is there a regular community event that you can recall that damaged the community when it ended?
YOU:

DN: Do you feel that Durand’s railroad heritage should remain a focus of the city in the future?
YOU:

DN: In your opinion, what kind of impact did the closure of The Durand Express have on the city?
YOU:

I'd love to include your feedback in a follow-up chapter, so please share any stories that you have!

There are some questions that could only be answered by the Publisher. Unfortunately, we don't have Owen's answers to these questions. But we do have another unique perspective, from the only living person that is qualified to answer them; Mark Zale, owner of The Durand Express from 1988 to 1992. I sat down with him before the holidays last year -- more of a social visit than business, but he did share some interesting nuggets.

As I recall, based on our conversation, Mark came to The Durand Express from a paper in northern Michigan. His expertise had been in sales for many years in the Detroit area, he only stumbled into news when he was invited to be Publisher of that northern Michigan paper, and that was the paper from which he came to Durand.

Mark said the commercial publishing business aspect of the company, particularly, grew signficantly during his short time at the Express, but a turn in the economy made it very difficult to pay the bills, and an internal situation involving a theft of funds by an employee complicated things further.

Eventually, Mark was forced to turn things back over to Owen.
Mark was fond of his time in Durand. He had stories to share about his experiences with local businesses. When I told him of some ideas and plans that I have for growing and expanding Durand Now, he affirmed them, offering even more ideas and suggestions and said that the time is right, right now. That's exciting and humbling all at once.

These days, Mark touches people in a different way. The Reverand Mark T. Zale is a Special Reiki for those in need of love and healing. His growing Alternative & Holistic health service, The Mustard Seed People, is based in Lennon.

Look for a similar Q + A with Mark, with his answers to many more random but specific questions, From The Express To Now.

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