Winters Express publisher Charles Wallace started a “countdown to retirement” clock on his computer several years ago, with the time scheduled to run down to zero when he turned 62. He is now 67. Five years past the target date, he says he couldn’t find anyone who wanted the job.
“You can’t just quit. It’s not like a regular job where someone else is just going to take your place. You have to find a replacement. I tried to retire last year, but there was no one to take my place.”
Even so, Wallace says it was time to pass the baton.
“I’m tired. I’m not doing a very good job at running the paper. It’s time to let someone else be in charge. Someone with more energy should be running the paper.”
That someone came in the form of Taylor Buley, Chief Technical Officer for McNaughton Newspapers, who expressed an interest in the publisher’s position. Wallace says he discussed the matter with CEO Foy McNaughton, and “Foy at some point decided it would be a good match for Taylor to take over the Express.”
Wallace and McNaughton have been partners since 1994, when the Express merged with McNaughton Newspapers, which also publishes the Davis Enterprise, the Fairfield Daily Republic, the Georgetown Gazette and the Mountain Democrat. McNaughton Newspapers gained a controlling interest in the Express whereas it had formerly belonged solely to Wallace and his parents, Newt and Ida Wallace.
The Express fell into Wallace hands in 1947, when Newt purchased the publication, serving as both publisher and editor. Following his graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in printing (now called “graphic communication”) in 1974, Charley returned to Winters in 1977 and went back to work in the Express office, where he’d literally grown up amongst the printing presses. Why?
“I like it,” he says.
In 1983, Newt decided to retire and promote Charley to publisher, which is when the Express began to hire non-family editors.
“My dad is a true journalist, where I’m just a printer,” says Charley. “I was more involved in the editorial, so we made great partners. My mother also worked on the editorial side.”
While his father printed the Express on an old-fashioned press, using a “Linotype” machine that set the letters, words and sentences in lead type, Charley introduced computers and digital printing in the 1980s, carrying the Express from old fashioned “paste up” composing to composing done completely by computer. By 1994, he stopped using paste-up composing and went to a “paginating” composing system and by 2002, the Express was 100 percent digitally produced.
Charley says the introduction of computers to newspaper publishing “saved weekly newspapers.” They were much faster and cheaper than the old-school printing presses, saving money on both production and employee hours.
Besides the new pagination system, Charley also introduced digital cameras to the Express, eliminating the need for film or a darkroom, brought the new innovations of the internet and email to the Express in the early ‘90s, and gave the Express its first website a few years later.
Although the Express became relatively modern compared to its traditional printing roots, one thing didn’t change: paper carriers. The Express continues to be delivered by boys (and sometimes girls) on bicycles, tossing papers from heavy canvas bags on the handlebars. The oldest paperboy of them all was Newt, who delivered the Express on foot in the downtown area each week, even though he officially retired in 1983 and earned the title of “World’s Oldest Paperboy.”
Newt retired from that job in 2015 when the Express office moved from Railroad Avenue to Russell Street, and Charley took over that “downtown walking route.” That begs the question of whether Charley will follow suit and keep coming to the office every day long after his “retirement.”
“Everybody needs a place to go,” he notes.
In other words, “yes.”
However, he clarifies, “I’m not in charge anymore.”
As of Dec. 31, that became official. The Express passed into the hands of Taylor Buley, the new owner and publisher. However, while Buley gets to know the position, the product and the community, Charley plans to stick around the Express office over the next few months to help make the transition smooth. He says Buley has what it takes to do the job: “He’s energetic and smart, and he wants the job.”
He adds that Buley is “serious about being the publisher — he bought a house here and is moving to Winters. He’s full of ideas.” He says Buley’s biggest challenge will be that he “has to learn how to live in a small town.”
Going forward, Charley says he will continue operating Winters Printing Company, which is a separate business from the Express, and will fill in as needed. He plans to continue selling ads for the Express and writing a weekly column. He says “nothing’s going to change much” for him.
“I won’t have the title, won’t have the responsibilities and I’ll set my own hours. And, I can play golf on Wednesdays now.”
Another thing he’ll have more time for is his grandchildren.
“I have three grandchildren who don’t live in town, and I’d like them to know who I am.”
Although he anticipates an easy sail from here on out, he admits that he still has come concerns.
“I worry about newspapers in general and the Express specifically. I don’t want it to go away. It needs community support. It’s not as easy to make money as it was in the past, when everybody shopped locally. We had three car dealers, three grocery stores… where’d they go? People quit using them. Now they go to Walmart.”
Overall, he just hopes that newspapers will find a way to survive in an ever-increasingly digital, online world.
“I’m hoping that print lasts forever. I think communities without newspapers aren’t real communities.”
He points out that newspapers really do matter, even now.
“We are the keepers of history. Newspapers are the glue that holds communities together.”
Estimating that he’s published over 2,000 issues of the Express over the years, he has plenty to reflect on.
“I’ve had a good life. I have met interesting people, from presidents to other politicians to business people. Being the Express publisher forces you to be active in the community.”
One of Charley’s main community activities is his involvement with the Rotary Club of Winters, in which he plans to remain active, as he will in the community and to some extent, behind the scenes at the Express.
“I’m just moving into the back with my father,” he says.
And what about his father, who, although “retired” since 1983, still comes into the office every day at the age of 98?
“Nothing changes with him,” replies Charley, anticipating that Newt will still be at his back office desk every morning. As for Newt, Charley says news of his retirement didn’t seem to particularly surprise him.
“When I told him I was retiring, he said, ‘I kind of stuck you with that job — I was wondering how you were going to get out of it.’”
As of this week Charley has semi-officially “gotten out of it.”
“There’s a new publisher, and I’m sure he is going to take his time and make changes to make the Express profitable so it can continue to serve the community.”
And, as of this week, he adds, “All the complaints go to Taylor.”
With Buley now in the position of publisher, this marks the first time in 70 years that a Wallace is not the publisher of the Winters Express.