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0:36 - Background

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Partial Transcript: Let's start off by you telling me your name and something about your personal background.

Segment Synopsis: Marcum discusses his family, education, and how he got into the newspaper business.



7:09 - Overview

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Partial Transcript: What kind of circulation do you have now?

Segment Synopsis: Marcum gives an overview of the newspaper.

Keywords: Martin Countian; Martin County; Newspaper competition

Subjects: Newspaper presses Newspaper--Circulation

18:52 - Reporting

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Partial Transcript: What's the most popular part of your paper with people?

Segment Synopsis: Marcum discusses reporting and editorial policies. He also talks about how he handles threats of lawsuits.

Keywords: Martin Countian; Martin County; Political endorsement

Subjects: Advertising, Newspaper Editorials Newspaper employees Newspaper reporting School boards

31:11 - Martin County

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Partial Transcript: What do you think are the major problems in the county?

Segment Synopsis: Marcum discusses issues in the county and who the most influential people are.

Keywords: Martin County

Subjects: Attorneys County government


Title: Interview with Homer Marcum Identifier: 1980oh165 Date: 1980-04-14 Interviewer: William Berge Project: Kentucky Newspaper Editors Project

The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Homer Marcum, editor of The Martin Countian, in Inez, Kentucky, by William Berge, director of the Oral History Center of Eastern Kentucky University. The interview was conducted at Mr. Marcum's office on April 14, 1980, at 12 noon.

Berge: Mr. Marcum, I want to thank you for letting me come up here today. I know you're busy, I can just tell by the few minutes I've been in here. Let's start off by you telling me your name, and something about your personal background, where you were born and when, and that type thing.

Marcum: Uh... My name is Homer Marcum. I was born in Pike County in 1947, in a little town called Hatfield, Kentucky. Um... I was bor... We didn't have a bathroom. We had four rooms and a path.

Berge: Hm-hum. What was your dad's name?

Marcum: Walter Marcum. My mother's name is Opal Farley Marcum.


Berge: She's a Farley.

Marcum: They both reside here in the county. And this is...

Berge: They're here in Martin County now?

Marcum: Yes, they both...uh...Mom was born in Martin County and dad was, too. But, they moved to Pike County sometime before I was born when they were married, although that isn't far from Martin County.

Berge: I know.

Marcum: That end of Pike County.

Berge: I know where it is. Tell me this, uh...what kind of work did he do?

Marcum: He's a coal miner, a retired coal miner. He has black lung.

Berge: He's always been a miner then?

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: Tell me this, uh...where did you go to school?

Marcum: My father, no... let me interrupt here. His mines once was closed, and he was a forest ranger for Martin County for about five years.

Berge: Uh-huh. Marcum: And then after that he was able to go back and finish up for his retirement in the coal mines.

Berge: Tell me this. Where did you go to school?

Marcum: I went to school first six years were in one-room schools up in Pike County.

Berge: What were the names of those? You remember?

Marcum: Bent Branch School. It was a Martin County school, but you had to walk...walk through Pike County to get there. And my mother, incidentally, was 2:00my first grade teacher.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And that made it a little extra tough.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: And then I went to Bevins School second through fifth grades, and then we moved to Martin County to Lovely.

Berge: Lovely, yeah, I know where it is.

Marcum: And I...I finished out my schooling...

Berge: It's right on the state line...actually, isn't it?

Marcum: Yes, it's over near Warfield.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: And, I graduated from Warfield High School.

Berge: Oh, you did? You went to Warfield High School?

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: Then what did you do? What year did you graduate?

Marcum: I graduated from high school in 1965.

Berge: Uh-huh. Then what did you do?

Marcum: I went to school at Pikeville College. I graduated from there in 1969 with a major in English and a minor in...uh... psychology.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: I had always wanted to go on into journalism, but at Pikeville I didn't realize 'til after I got there and didn't realize mother being a school teacher and having graduated from Pikeville College it was just assumed that I'd go there. But I didn't realize 'til after I was there that I probably should have gone somewhere else if I wanted to go in journalism. Berge: And what did you do then after you graduated?

Marcum: After I graduated, I taught school at Crum, West Virginia. Uh...that's 3:00where I did my student teaching.

Berge: That's right on the state line, too.

Marcum: It's on the state line. It was as close to Martin County as I could have it.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: I stayed at Crum the remainder of that year 1969-70, as a classroom teacher. And, at the end of that year I was drafted in the Army, that was in...uh...September of 1970. And, I spent a year and a half in the Army and that was when the Vietnam War was winding down and draftees got out six months early. So, I came back to Martin County in March of 1972, and...uh...there was a...a teaching position open at Pigeon Roost Elementary in Martin County, and I finished out the year teaching phy ed and English.

Berge: You've been running up and down the West Virginia line all your life. Haven't you?

Marcum: Yes. I have.

Berge: [Laughing]

Marcum: And then...uh...that was...that was in 1972. In the fall of 1973, the county consolidated Warfield and Inez high schools into Sheldon Clark High 4:00School. And, I went there and taught English and journalism. Um... I suppose I taught journalism because they were desperate.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: I was the closest person...

Berge: And you were interested, too.

Marcum: ...I was interested and had worked in...had worked in newspapers.

Berge: How long did you stay in the schools then?

Marcum: I stayed until 1977. In 1976, uh...I was faced with the...a...a personal turmoil, I guess. We had a newspaper in town that I thought was less than adequate.

Berge: That The Times?

Marcum: No. It was the Martin County Mercury.

Berge: Oh.

Marcum: I shouldn't even show you that sign.

Berge: OK.

Marcum: It's a pretty bit presumptuous of me. That's their sign. Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: Both...Now we're the only paper in town.

Berge: When did that Times close?

Marcum: It closed about...uh... nine or ten weeks ago.

Berge: Yeah. Uh-huh. I know the last time...the first time I knew anything about the fact there were two papers here was when I was reading about both of you in the Courier.

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: That type thing.

Marcum: That thing's still going on.

Berge: Yeah. I figured it was. Uh...let me you made a decision to 5:00go in the newspaper business then?

Marcum: Well, my...

Berge: Can you tell me a little about how it happened?

Marcum: Invariably...yeah. Invariably there uh... when I was in journalism class talking to my students about the way the book says to do it, they said but the paper in town doesn't do it that way.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: And, I got tired defending the book. So, I just decided that if it was going to ever be done maybe I'd better be the one do it. And, so I...I started on a shoestring my own newspaper.

Berge: So you figured that the county really needed a newspaper?

Marcum: I really did. I checked around, and I knew people that come to me and said that we need another one. I used to work for that paper, and I'd rather not go into....


Marcum: ... too much personal animosity.

Berge: I understand.

Marcum: But,, I started my own newspaper with what savings I had and a small loan from the bank. And, I had intended that first year, I had worked with the ...talked with the board of education about it and they were going to allow me to teach a half a day because they were hard up for men teachers and put me a 6:00little bit in the driver's seat. There were some other men who worked that way here in the county because of the coal mining.

Berge: Uh-huh. Marcum: And, so I began the 1976-77 school year editing and publishing a newspaper and teaching school half the day.

Berge: How many people worked with you in the paper?

Marcum: Uh...full time there was... I was unpaid. The only paid person...there was two paid full-time people. One of 'em is still here. We've grown some since then.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: But, during that school year I did a...a poor job at both. I just had...

Berge: You can't survive...

Marcum: ...two things.

Berge: You can't tear yourself that way. Can you?

Marcum: No. No. And, so I...I struggled through that year and resigned from teaching.

Berge: And, I guess the paper had become a source of pride by then and you decided you were going to do it right or not do it.

Marcum: I had too much of my heart into by then. A lot of things many things had happened that I...I couldn't forecast.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: And, I was right in the middle of a struggle by then. So I...I quit 7:00teaching, took the gamble, still had not been paid a thing from the venture, uh...and went into it full time. And, it's worked out, that's what I should have done...

Berge: Uh... What kind of circulation do you have now?

Marcum: We print thirty-five hundred. Our official paid as we attest the Post Office in October every year is thirty...I forget...thirty-two-eighty- seven, or something...

Berge: That's damn good for a county like this, isn't it?

Marcum: Yes.

Berge: This high?

Marcum: A lot of those go out of the county, too.

Berge: Yeah, but still, it's's a good circulation for...what have you got...five, six hundred, seven hundred people in this town, I guess?

Marcum: In the town there's about eight hundred. The sign's a little misleading.

Berge: Um-hum. But it's less than a thousand isn't it? Marcum: Well, we...we...we contend that our name is The Martin Countian.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: And, our target is the entire county.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: So, that's what we shoot for. And, not necessarily how the news comes out of Inez because of the courthouse.

Berge: Sure. Would you advise...uh...another young person sometime to do something like you did?

Marcum: No.

Berge: I don't mean in Inez, but...

Marcum: No. I wouldn't.

Berge: It's a rough go?


Marcum: I would never do it again.

Berge: Are you making a living now?

Marcum: Yeah. My wife still teaches. She's a home ec teacher. We need that income.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: My friends just ask me why I had no children, and I passed it off as a joke. But, it's true. There's no room for children in our marriage.

Berge: Sure.

Marcum: She helps here at the paper part time. She's...uh...she's very much a part of it.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: It's a closely meshed family.

Berge: But, do you like the paper though?

Marcum: Uh... I'm...I have regrets about having to go back through the last past five years. But, yeah, I love it. I really think it's a community service.

Berge: So many many people who get into it really do love the business.

Marcum: Oh, yeah.

Berge: You wish you did it earlier?

Marcum: probably...

Berge: You probably weren't in shape to do it?

Marcum: I probably weren't....wouldn't have been prepared to do it. I was...I wasn't strong enough a few years ago.

Berge: Yeah...yeah. You have to have a thick skin, don't you?

Marcum: Yes, you do.

Berge: So, the history of this paper, then, is really...uh... just four years old.

Marcum: Well,'ll be a full five years old on August the eighth, 1980.


Berge: Yeah. It'll be five years old next August.

Marcum: Right.

Berge: Tell me, did you get the circulation up so quickly?

Marcum: Well...

Berge: You give a lot of gimmick things to do it, or...?

Marcum: Well, I started out with a gimmick to give away a car. And, I gave away a car. With my...And, hell, I was driving an old beat up jalopy myself. But, I gave away a new Pinto that cost me three thousand dollars.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: Um...My scheme was...that was the beginning of the first Martin County Fair in over twenty-some years, and I was a part of that. And, I thought it would be good for the fair and the paper, too, they're both timed about the same time, to...


Marcum: give away something.

Berge: With a subscription you got a chance, huh?

Marcum: Well, that was my original intention. But, I found out after I ran a full-page ad announcing what we were going to do, I was reminded by the county attorney, who owned the other paper in town, that that was a lottery and it was illegal. Which almost destroyed whole dream.


Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And...uh...he, in fact, went before the grand jury and tried to have me indicted for that. But, I immediately changed and found out what the law was. And, found I had to give everybody a chance on it whether they subscribed or not and I started doing that. But, anyway, the gamble worked. And, with a lot of promotion...we did it with the newspaper ads in other newspapers, not in-county newspapers. With radio and with family going door-to-door and especially...uh...our ace was the first county fair. We sold subscriptions down there. And...uh... At the last day that I had to go pick that car up I didn't have my three thousand dollars. It was still at the dealer. And, uh... I had already talked to my banker and said I may need to borrow this three thousand dollars before...

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: ...before I decide what to do. And, I had to borrow nine hundred dollars is all. I took in twenty-three hundred on subscriptions., it worked real well.

Berge: Uh-huh. And your advertising's building up now?

Marcum: Yeah...we're...we're....

Berge: And, since the other paper's closed I guess it's even gotten better?


Marcum: We've never been healthier.

Berge: Hm-hum. What happened to the other paper?

Marcum: Well...

Berge: Did you just put it out of business?

Marcum: I don't think so. They had five full-time employees. They started out...uh... in a losing position because...they were...they started out bigger...

Berge: They were too big.

Marcum: ...than we now are.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: Uh...And, they had internal problems down there. And, all five people walked out on 'em one day. They had financial problems. One of them is here now.

Berge: Uh-huh. When did they start? 'Bout time you did?

Marcum: They there's two newspapers we're talking about.

Berge: Yeah, I know.

Marcum: There was the Martin County Mercury, the one that was in business when I started. Uh...

Berge: That's the one that was big. Too big?

Marcum: That was the one that was big. It was run by a politician. It was run was owned by the county attorney.

Berge: Uh-huh

Marcum: I thought there was a conflict of interest there. And, I thought it manifested itself on their front page every week.

Berge: Uh-huh. It was really an editorial page? Huh?

Marcum: It was... I have a private joke about that. I said it's like reading 12:00"The Great John Kirk" by John Kirk. He was the county attorney. And, owned that other paper.

Berge: Yeah. I read about him, too, when I was reading...

Marcum: That paper...uh...died a natural death, they won't admit it, but it ceased publishing last summer. And, about three weeks later they regrouped with a new paper called the Martin County Times with some new employees. That one folded its doors about ten weeks ago, which would have been in early January or somewhere in there.

Berge: So, that really you've come out of this smelling like the proverbial rose then. You've got the established paper in the county.

Marcum: Oh, yeah. I...I think so.

Berge: Hm-hum. Tell me this now, many people work for you now? Counting yourself and your wife. Not counting yourself and your wife, rather.

Marcum: OK. Uh...We have three full-time girls who...who do ads, and...uh...typing and general office chores. And...uh...I have one, semi full-time writer. Michel Fauri.


Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: She's been with us almost a year now. She's a top notch writer and believes in the things I do.

Berge: Where are they from...those people? All local?

Marcum: Michel is...Fauri is from Floyd County. Her husband is an attorney. He now has a position in the Brown administration in Frankfort. So, she's trying to sell the house and move to Frankfort now.

Berge: That'll hurt you.

Marcum: It'll hurt me. We'll miss her. And, then the other girls are from here in the county.

Berge: Tell me you...uh...think your circulation is going to grow any more?

Marcum: I have every hope that it will.

Berge: Well, I mean....what...what is the potential for circulation in a county like this?

Marcum: The potential is....uh...

Berge: Five thousand?

Marcum: No.

Berge: That would be awful high wouldn't it?

Marcum: No, not that many.

Berge: Four?

Marcum: Four. Forty-five, maybe. The county's growing.

Berge: Of course, the longer you're in business the more outside county people will be taking it to keep up with the local home news and stuff like that, too.

Marcum: Right. Right. Uh, we like to thank that you get a letter from home 14:00every week. We sell that. People write us in every week.

Berge: Well, I know, teaching in a place like I do those kids like those papers.

Marcum: Yeah, yeah...we get letters from people saying thanks for the picture of Aunt Sally.

Berge: They go down to the library and read their papers all the time. You know when they're...

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: They love it. Tell me this. Uh... Do you ever... Have you ever had any more circulation gimmicks?

Marcum: No.

Berge: Since that first one?

Marcum: No. We've been so involved...uh...and so wrapped up in what it is we're doing here that...that we...we went for weeks without even putting the little subscription blank in there saying clip this out and send up six dollars and you'll get the paper. We neglected circulation for a long time. Now we're doing a little better and we're running some... a lot of house ads. But, no, we haven't had any more gimmicks. Each year at the fair...we've continued with the, uh...

Berge: So that's where your...

Marcum: offer renewals and new subscriptions.

Berge: That's a good idea.

Marcum: We set up a booth at the fair.

Berge: That's a good idea.

Marcum: One year I ...I came on to a special deal and bought some Kentucky...hospitality in Kentucky and some Kentucky garden...Kentucky gardening 15:00book that was printed by the people who print me, Landmark.

Berge: I was going to ask you who does your...where do you take it? [Unintelligible] Winchester?

Marcum: ...and I bought several hundred of those books at a dollar a piece as surplus. And I gave those away with anybody who...who bought a new subscription at the fair.

Berge: Did that help? Did that work?

Marcum: I don't think it did.

Berge: Did it make...

Marcum: People came down wanting a book, but they would have been there anyway.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: I uh...I just a feel a little special obligation to the fair and I try to do something a little...little extra.

Berge: Do you have you take the paper to Winchester? Is that right?

Marcum: To Cynthiana.

Berge: I mean Cynthiana. To be...How long does it take you to go over there with that paper?

Marcum: It takes about three hours.

Berge: Yeah, every bit of that.

Marcum: Geography sure hurt me up here.

Berge: Boy, I tell you, going over those's a trip, isn't it? In the winter. You got four-wheel drive?

Marcum: Well, I started out with a four-wheel drive, but I outgrew it. I couldn't load all my papers in it after about a year., now I have a van. Last winter we improvised a little. We put a half a ton roll of newspaper in it 16:00and just hauled it around all winter.

Berge: For weight?

Marcum: For weight. And, we...just one time did the weather keep us from getting back here in time for Wednesday morning mailing.

Berge: But, you got it out that day?

Marcum: But, we got it out that day.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: There was a time last year when I made the trip...I now have a driver who does that for me. When I was making the trip, I forget what winter it was...two winters ago that...uh...all the interstates were closed because of the blizzard we had and the governor says the only way you can go is with special permission. Well, we had to go...Tuesday night...and there must have been two feet of snow and six inches of ice on the roads. And, I got it back in time. A State Police pulled me over in Salyersville and said what in the hell are you doing out? You must be a bootlegger. And, he searched...searched through all my mailbags and saw that I did have a newspaper. Berge: He knew you were carrying something important but he thought it was whiskey! [Laughing]

Marcum: Yeah. Yeah. And, so, he let me on through and I...I got 'em to the mail on time that morning, but the mailman couldn't even deliver it was so bad.


Berge: Tell me you have local correspondents?

Marcum: Oh yeah. We have community.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: We encourage that.

Berge: Do people like those?

Marcum: Oh, yeah. The only time anybody has threatened to cancel a subscription here over something we did or did not do was the time this old man came in and brought us a story about him having a new grandchild. And, uh...our...that...he lived in Inez.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: Our Inez correspondent that week was sick. And, those people are unpaid. They just... They just...

Berge: Yeah. Yeah.

Marcum: it out of generosity. So, we didn't have any Inez news that week, and I thought well I'll hold this until...until she's well again next week.

Berge: Hmmm...

Marcum: He came in and cancelled his subscription and everybody in his family's. The next week, I told him why it wasn't in and he didn't care. But, the next week I went ahead and put it in and he came back and they all renewed and he brought me some more subscriptions.

Berge: So that helped was good.

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: Tell me this. was going to tell you that there's a man down in ...a young man...a young woman owns a paper down in of those counties in south central Kentucky, that they every year their correspondents have a contest to see who gets the most new...uh...

Marcum: Subscriptions?

Berge: ...subscriptions. And, that's his biggest thing. That works for him, too. Name is Sonny Branham...he has Cumberland County News. They're very proud of that program, too. They like to tell people about it.

Marcum: I'll have to check with him some time.

Berge: His name is Sonny Branham. It's the Cumberland County News. Marcum: Uh...He may be at one of these conventions. I'll have to talk to him.

Berge: Yeah. Yeah. You might ask him about that. He's told me about it a couple times. Sonny Branham is his name. Uh...on this...uh... What's the most popular part of your paper with people?

Marcum: I like to think it's either the front page or the editorial page. 19:00And...uh...I'm especially proud of the letters to the editor section.

Berge: Hm-hum. You print all the ones that are printable?

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: Pro or con?

Marcum: Some of them are...boy...they're...we get some mean letters in here...

Berge: Even the ones that are after you?

Marcum: We even get some that are after me, and I go ahead and print 'em. I've printed I suppose no less than a dozen letters from lawyers who say I'm going to sue you if you don't eat your words. And, I just run 'em as letters to the editor and don't eat my words. Sometimes they follow through and sue.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: Most time they don't.

Berge: You never lose those suits, I guess, do you?

Marcum: No. I...I have a page of notes here. I just got through talking to my lawyer. I got to be in court tomorrow on the fifth one.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: Uh...The first four were dismissed for lack of prosecution by the people who filed them.

Berge: What are your most important beats? The courthouse and the schools?

Marcum: Uh...The courthouse by far the most important here in this county. And, then the schools, of course, are important, too.

Berge: Uh-huh. I guess courthouse elections then ...are...are the most followed in this county, more so than school elections? Is that right?


Marcum: Oh, absolutely. I ran an editorial once stating my objection to a system that...uh...requires gravel before you can get people out to vote. And, that's the way it is.

Berge: Yeah. It's a tragedy, isn't it?

Marcum: Um-hum.

Berge: Uh, what percentage of your paper is news and what percentage of it's advertising? Marcum: If you want to know what it will be this week it'll be high. Like it has been last two or three since the other paper went out of business.

Berge: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Marcum: Uh. We...we have a real problem keeping our second class...not a real problem keeping it, but...we, uh... The post office makes you maintain no more than seventy...

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: less than seventy-five percent news content.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: We're right at it. There's been weeks...

Berge: It's hard isn't it?

Marcum: Two weeks ago we ran an eighty percent advertisement paper. And, I don't like to do that, but sometimes you're caught in a bind.

Berge: I understand.

Marcum: People come in and say I want to change my mind instead of a quarter page I want a full page.

Berge: Uh-huh.


Marcum: And, that week it all hit us. So last week we...we made an effort...

Berge: If it's an exception though I don't think anybody ever gets too upset about that, do they?

Marcum: Well, the Post Office, the rules [unintelligible] say that you can't average seventy-five percent more in four weeks. So, we took special pains to bring that down that fourth week.

Berge: How big is your paper generally?

Marcum: Last...for the last two months it's been averaging about twenty-eight pages...

Berge: Oh, dear.

Marcum: ...two or three inserts.

Berge: Big paper then.

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: Uh...everybody's gotta a problem that's in the newspaper business deciding what to print and what not to print. Uh...and...when you have a paper like yourself, which is a community newspaper, maybe it' know...feel it more keenly because you're not only the newspaper man in this county...but you're...also you feel strongly about the county. Do you ever just avoid printing certain kinds of stuff?

Marcum: Such as?

Berge: I can't think...I mean, uh...because it just...there's no positive good 22:00that comes from it.

Marcum: Uh...

Berge: It might affect somebody personally rather than...publically.

Marcum: There's time that in an isolated situation that uh....that I...I'm faced with the choice of whether to print it or not. And there's times that if I know the people and I know that it's embarrassing to them I may choose to ignore it.

Berge: Can you give me an example?

Marcum: Uh... There's a story that's going on this week that I'm...that I'm not sure what I'll do with but my first thought is to ignore it unless somebody calls and says you ought to do this story. Uh... It's one that...

Berge: Can you tell me the type of thing it is?

Marcum: Well, a fellow walked into his ex-wife's house, used the key to get in the back door.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: He pulled a gun and took her hostage and let her out in front of the courthouse stark naked.

Berge: Ahhh.

Marcum: And, she marched around the courthouse scared to death...

Berge: So it's embarrassing for her?

Marcum: It'd be embarrassing for her...

Berge: And him.

Marcum: The fellow's in serious trouble.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: Uh...He's also crazy.

Berge: Well...

Marcum: You know. So I don't...I...

Berge: Printing something everybody knows anyway.

Marcum: Yeah...that's ...that's gossip mill. That's two people on one. Nobody 23:00was hurt. Her feelings were of course hurt, very much so. She was embarrassed by it. The guy is behind bars where he belongs and's already run its course, I hope. I may not print that. Berge: Yeah. And if you do with as little detail as possible, huh?

Marcum: Yeah. Yeah. I'll probably write a story saying this guy is in jail on these charges and let it go at that.

Berge: And, that is...that's the kind of thing I was wondering about. What you do with it? You know. Some people can get very idealistic and say no, they print everything.

Marcum: Well, I...I say that....I...

Berge: I...

Marcum: ...about other things. I print every letter I get that number one is signed and number two isn't libelous.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And boy there's been some...that...uh...were, yeah...

Berge: Shadowy, huh?

Marcum: Some even flaky...written people who don't deal with a full deck.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: But, uh...I would rather run it as is than to go editing it. I don't think that an editor ought to be changing what you write.

Berge: Well, this reminds me of something else. Do you ever edit the stuff that the local correspondents send into you? Or, do you...


Marcum: Most of the time I...

Berge: You print it the way they write it?

Marcum: The way...the way we're structured here I probably don't even see it 'til it's printed.

Berge: Well, people kinda like that way anyway, don't they?

Marcum: Sure. I haven't been embarrassed by community correspondents.

Berge: Well sometimes there's some real characters in some places. People love to read their stuff, too.

Marcum: Yeah. Now I had a fellow who writes letters quite often, and he has a great following in this county.

Berge: Like a column almost. [Laughing]

Marcum: Well...he...uh...I'm not sure. I've never met the man. I think I need to. But, he wrote in here once and said the Martians are coming in a three mile log and a mile wide and they're going to take all of our women. Uh... He wrote back another time and says that...uh...what we need to do to whip the Russians is go to China and hire a million women at a dollar a day, train 'em, and have them whip the Russians.

Berge: That's great. ... I imagine people love to read him.

Marcum: A number of letters came in saying send him to "Real People."

Berge: People love him, I know.

MH: Sure... they say have [unclear]

Berge: He's going to make it, I think, though. He'll make it on the "Real People" eventually.

Marcum: Probably will.


Berge: And, I hope you get Sarah Purcell up here to do it. [Laughing] She's a beauty. I think her name is Sarah, isn't it?

Marcum: I never watch it.

Berge: Yeah. Uh...but, the courthouse then is your big beat...

Marcum: Oh, yes.

Berge: ...and that's the most controversial, too, I guess? Uh...Do you endorse political candidates?

Marcum: No.

Berge: Do you think you ever will?

Marcum: I'm...I'm thinking now that I made a mistake by not endorsing candidates last time...

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: ...because I think...I think that I took too much of a hands off policy and let...

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: ...and let some things happen that shouldn't have happened.

Berge: I'll tell you though, when you got the only paper in a county it's an enormous amount of power.

Marcum: Yeah. I'm just now realizing it. I've never been the only paper until the last two months.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And, it brings with it special...special responsibilities. I see that.

Berge: Uh-huh. I take it from the phone call I heard before you also also try to do a good job on sports.

Marcum: I do. Uh...

Berge: It's important to the county, I guess, and the schools. Isn't it?


Marcum: Well, Martin County is very rural and Martin County has very few public facilities. And,, the school is a very integral part of the system. And, when you talk sports in Martin County the only organized sports for any part is high school sports. And, yes, it's important.

Berge: You cover them good?

Marcum: Yeah. Well, we...I'm a little sometimes ashamed of our coverage because the boy who writes sports for me is a full-time student at Morehead. He does the best job he can on weekends, and I even pay his gas to come back here...

Berge: Do you take pictures?

Marcum: Well, I take 'em occasionally. And, I'm...

Berge: When he's not around?

Marcum: I'm limited a lot of times because I've been the scorekeeper...I keep the clock...

Berge: Of course, Tuesday's a bad time for you, too, because you're working and he's not in the county. And, that makes it kinda bad, doesn't it?

Marcum: That's right. So, what he does...we have a very lose sports page. But, I'm amazed...he's doing a good job with what ... with how it's arranged. He'll be in here today sometime... I suspect he's probably even cutting a class to do 27:00it. Um...and...I'll give him a list of stories, and he and I talk over what's happened in sports here this week and what stories he needs to write. And, he goes out and does what he has to do, and I find 'em stuffed under my door when I come in about seven o'clock Tuesday morning.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And that's...that's my involvement with sports with him. And, my photographer, uh...if he's doing his job, he's been out to get pictures of the ball team that week in action. And, we mesh the two and I put it together.

Berge: Uh-huh. I guess then... that, uh... And, you don't endorse political candidates on the local, state, or national level either, then, I take it?

Marcum: No.

Berge: OK. Uh... Do you... Are you...You're...the one that establishes all editorial policy? You don't...

Marcum: I don't...

Berge: ...I mean you don't talk about it with anybody. Or... It's really your baby then isn't it?

Marcum: It's my decision, but now, we have an here. We all talk about...when I get a letter in I'll pass it around to...uh... the employees and say what should we do about this?

Berge: Uh-huh.


Marcum: We all pretty much agree before we decide what [unintelligible].

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And, no, I don't endorse candidates.

Berge: OK. What do you think about chain newspapers?

Marcum: Well, I...

Berge: What do you think that the advantage of having a paper like yours over a chain paper in Martin County?

Marcum: There's several. Uh... There's a chain interested in buying this paper, and they've talked to me about it. I don't want any part of it. One, because they're too corporate. I don't care what they say it's too much of a corporate structure.

Berge: The bottom line is money.

Marcum: The bottom line is money. And, uh...I don't want anybody telling me don't run this editorial this week because it's's gonna upset some advertisers. I don't want anybody telling me that... and they don't now.

Berge: Of course, in a situation like you have, even if they're upset there's no place else for them really to go, is there?

Marcum: Well, until now there has been.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And, that's why there was a newspaper in the beginning, I maintain.

Berge: Yeah. Uh-huh.


Marcum: Another newspaper. But...uh... if it comes down to right or wrong and it involves an advertiser, he's going to be reading about himself. And, that's always been our policy. And, I think now people are beginning to see that...that it works.

Berge: And, they appreciate it, don't they?

Marcum: Yeah. There's people who are under the gun this week, who've done things and they get mad and they quit advertising. But...uh...then I...I run a story a few weeks later about their daughter and her speech as valedictorian. Or, their son starring in the Little League game and they seem to get...get over it.

Berge: I...I imagine you don't get a lot of cooperation from the courthouse, do you?

Marcum: Uh...Until lately they wouldn't even talk to me on the record. They wouldn't acknowledge that I existed because they had their own newspaper.

Berge: How 'bout now?

Marcum: They don't have their own newspaper now and they...anytime they think I'm writing something about the courthouse they call me to get their remarks in. Berge: Oh, really?

Marcum: Yes. Uh... They're a little...they're a little concerned.

Berge: So, you and that guy are speaking...on the phone at least?

Marcum: Well...

Berge: Or, does...

Marcum: There's several guys. There's several of those guys.

Berge: Yeah. Yeah.

Marcum: One of those guys calls me. don't.


Berge: Um-hum. But, he's calling you for everybody, I guess.

Marcum: Yeah. Yeah. He's the collective spokesman. It's all one family.

Berge: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Marcum: He and I went to high school together. Incidentally, there...uh...I was president of my...of my high school class my freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years. And, the county planner, the fellow that...uh... he's been reading a lot about himself lately, and I've been writing a lot about it. Uh... He was vice president of those four classes. He and I were that close. We graduated together. We taught school at Crum together. Our first school.

Berge: You may end up speaking to each other someday after it's all...

Marcum: We do. We laugh. Each time we talk. But, I...I don't know now. I hit him pretty hard last week over some things they did. I always have to set back for a couple days and see what the reaction of the community is.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: I don't know whether people are going to come in with guns or be waiting outside with them.

Berge: Uh-huh. So, but you do feel this responsibility very strongly then?

Marcum: Absolutely.

Berge: How do you get along with the schools?

Marcum: Fine.

Berge: Let me turn this over.

[Tape changed]


Berge: I, uh...we need to get say the schools are very cooperative... Marcum: Yes.

Berge: ... and that type of thing.

Marcum: I think we're fortunate here to have good school leadership.

Berge: What do you think are the major problems in the county?

Marcum: Our first problem is one that...that is not so evident, but it should be to all of us. And, that is what do we do after the coal is gone? We best be diversifying our economy here, or we're going to be right back where we were in 1964 when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: Uh...I was in that crowd. And, I...I somewhere have a newspaper clipping of myself. I was a junior in high school, standing holding a sign "All the Way With LBJ." Uh...cause...I grew up here and I know how scare jobs were and I know how scare they're going to be when the coal mining is gone.

Berge: Yes. Uh-huh.

Marcum: That's the number one problem. Garbage is a serious problem.

Berge: Yeah.


Marcum: Solid waste. We...we have to come to grips with that problem.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: Uh... We have to come to grips here in Martin County with a much bigger problem. And, that is...uh...that you quit voting for your good buddy, neighbor, cousin, because he needs the money.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: We need ... we need to put some good, progressive thinking people out to run for office, and we need to elect them.

Berge: Yeah...'cause this is a time even though things are bad, they're...this is a time when you can get new things.

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: If you really know how to do it and work hard at it. Uh...Of course, transportation is an incredible problem here.

Marcum: Absolutely. That...That's a problem. Strip mining is a problem.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: Uh...We need...we need to make sure that our mountains are reclaimed

Berge: Yeah. Marcum: Uh...We need to do it with as little disturbance as possible. I don't know how you do that. I don't know you make sure the system works. But, we've got to see that it does.

Berge: What is...uh...Where are the people oriented to when they...if they go to another town? Is it Paintsville or Prestonsburg?


Marcum: You mean where they shop? Uh, the retail market in Martin County is very weak.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: It just isn't prepared for the numbers. It''s behind the times.

Berge: So where do the people shop?

Marcum: They depends. That's a good question. There's a mountain in Martin may have heard of The Hill.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: Separates Inez and Warfield. And believe me, that is barren.

Berge: Yeah. Yeah.

Marcum: The people who live on the Warfield side of that Hill, beginning from the top, that's pretty much the center...

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: ....traditionally shop in Williamson, West Virginia.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: Because it's closer to them.

Berge: Sure.

Marcum: It's closer for the people in the Inez area to go to Paintsville or Prestonsburg, and now, to some extent Louisa.

Berge: Well, of the two though, where do they go? Paintsville or Prestonsburg?

Marcum: I'd say Paintsville.

Berge: It's a little easier to get to it?

Marcum: Yeah. And, they're the best roads out of here in forty-three years. And, that delivered us [unintelligible].

Berge: Paintsville seems to be growing to, doesn't it?

Marcum: It is. Berge: It's a booming place, isn't it? there pretty good...uh...relationship between the people in the two counties?

Marcum: Oh, yeah.

Berge: Johnson and Martin?

Marcum: There's basketball rivalries...

Berge: But, it's a good rivalry?


Marcum: Sure. It's a healthy rivalry. It fills the gymnasium for years. Yeah, the people get along real well here in these counties.

Berge: What about recreation for young people? Is there any?

Marcum: Well, if you'd...if you had given me enough time I was going to list a whole bunch more problems we have.

Berge: OK.

Marcum: I don't know how many you want to hear.

Berge: Well, hear 'em.

Marcum: Recreation is another one. We have to keep our young people here. We...We've now reversed this trend of going to Columbus and...and Chicago to get jobs. I went to Chicago three summers for my summer jobs while I was in school. Now the people are staying here. But, I don't know what's going to keep them unless we have some recreation.

Berge: And, industry bad, I guess. Some kind of industry. The transportation limits that severely.

Marcum: Sure. Sure. Coal hauls roads. It's really a problem here. I'm...I'm lobbying for coal haul roads. I think we need 'em. We need transportation. Martin County's my little editorial...Martin County's been the whipping boy of the state all these years. I really believe. We didn't have the 35:00numbers, looking at it realistically...

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: get those things from Frankfort that we needed. And, we didn't have effective leadership that we sent down there either, I don't think. Uh, that lobbied for us.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: But, that's a problem.

Berge: Who's your representative now?

Marcum: Doc Blair from Johnson County.

Berge: Have you ever had representative from this county? Marcum: Yeah, oh yeah. Martin County traditionally has been the representative.

Berge: Who's that? Who've they been?

Marcum: Well, Albert Dempsey, who's still alive and who was defeated last time. Uh...was representative...he said if he were re-elected he would have served four decades.

Berge: Yeah. Any...any others?

Marcum: Leo Marcum, who's no kin to me, and who's an attorney and was the representative before Doc Blair.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: L.T. Hardin. The representative be... for twelve years was before Leo Marcum.

Berge: I use to have Hardin in class. He used to be a student of mine.

Marcum: OK.

Berge: Is he still around here?

Marcum: Yeah.

Berge: What's he do?

Marcum: He's...recently resigned from the school board. He was director of transportation.

Berge: Uh-huh.


Marcum: Now, he's a...isn't saying much, but I think he's going to mine some coal.

Berge: Uh...the uh...I see you belong to the Kentucky Press Association, and you've done very well in your short history, haven' you?

Marcum: Thank you.

Berge: that valuable to you, to belong?

Marcum: It is to me. Uh, I learn a lot at those conventions.

Berge: Uh-huh.

Marcum: And, I...I've bought three families of typeset equipment since I've been here. And, I always see the new equipment at the conventions. Talk to people who have used it. We swap ideas. It's been a growing experience for me.

Berge: You sure have a lot of plaques considering you just started.

Marcum: Those are...we quit putting up anything other than winners. There's about twenty second and third place. They just clutter the walls. Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: They don't really mean anything except to me. I...I value those...

Berge: I imagine you'd be very proud of them.

Marcum: ...for those best editorial and best investigative story awards. I think they mean something.


Berge: That's...that's great. Uh...what...are the most interesting stories you've dealt with...just briefly...since you've been here. The courthouse story I'm sure is one.

Marcum: Well, there's any number of stories that come out of the courthouse.

Berge: Um-hum.

Marcum: One of the most interesting that I think has a national significance is going on right now. The story of Beauty.

Berge: What's that?

Marcum: It's the story of the Martin County Housing Agency applying for and receiving initial word that a three million dollar grant would be funded to move 129 people out of the flood plain at Beauty. Well, as it turns out the people from Beauty say that they have never been consulted about it. It's news to them that they're going to be moved, and they don't want to go. And, so now we have the classic battle of...the government knowing what's best for the people versus the people who think they know best and who are going to stick to their guns.

Berge: What side you taking? Either?

Marcum: I'm taking the people's side. Our editorial last week was...we didn't 38:00make any bones about it, our editorial was...we...Beauty...our vote is with the people. And, we went ahead and said if Beauty doesn't get three million dollars that's tough... it wasn't done right in the beginning.

Berge: Hm-hum. Now, here's the last question I'm going to ask you is one that I ask everyone and it's maybe the hardest to answer and easiest depending upon your view. Every county, every city in this state has certain kinds of people who are the decision makers in that city. Sometimes if you were a stranger you'd never know who they were because they don't run for office always, sometimes they do. What kind of people are decision makers in this county?

Marcum: Well, there's two ways to look at that.

Berge: And, you know, this here doesn't just mean the people who are progressive. Sometimes if you're standing in the way of progress you've got tremen... you're making a real decision, you've got a real lot of power. Sometimes that takes more power do.

Marcum: Sure.

Berge: But, what kind of people are they in this county who do both?

Marcum: I'm going to give you a two-pronged answer.

Berge: OK.

Marcum: And, I'm going to tell that you if you look around the county and look at the symptoms of a government that is working for the people, you don't see 39:00much evidence. In that sense, our...our decision makers haven't done the right thing.

Berge: Yeah.

Marcum: I think now, um...the decision makers are...don't have the best interests of the county at heart.

Berge: Hm-hum.

Marcum: I think it shows. Um...And, I think this next election we have is going to be awfully important.

Berge: Hm-hum. Do you have... Are there...uh...Are there some old land owners, are there any...few people like that in the county? Or, are they generally politicians, are they attorneys, are they bankers?

Marcum: Now, it's uh... It's mostly attorneys who have a special interest in mind. Uh... Before then, it was businessmen. There was a lack of attorneys here in this county when there were no jobs. It's been businessmen who thought it was in their best interest to keep...keep things as they were without change.

Berge: How about health care? Do you have a hospital and all that kind of stuff?

Marcum: We don't have a hospital.


Berge: Where do people go?

Marcum: They either... depending on...

Berge: Same as...

Marcum: ...where you live you go to Williamston, Louisa, or Paintsville...Prestonsburg.

Berge: OK. OK. OK.

Marcum: Uh...I want to thank you for letting me come in here. I know it's kind of hurry up because you're busy and I have to go somewhere. But, is there anything that you would have liked me to ask you that I haven't?

Marcum: No. Um. No...

Berge: Well, I won't... OK, go on.

Marcum: I was going to say this kind of talk could go on forever.

Berge: Yeah, I understand.

Marcum: But, we hit some of the high points. I hope when Martin County is remember a hundred years from now that it's remembered that... in the year 1978 we were going through a...a real struggle with the decision facing us whether we want to go forward with the rest of 'em or not. Berge: I tell you, I want to...uh, sometime when I have more time come back here and talk with you about some specific things if you don't mind.

Marcum: Sure.

Berge: Uh, in fact, you talk about a hundred years from now, that's the reason we're doing this, actually. I... Most people who do these oral histories talk to 41:00governors and senators and stuff like this. I've been in...well, I will by June have been in all hundred and twenty counties in the state. And, the reason for it is I think that if you're ever going to understand Kentucky, in seventeen hundred and eighty, you have to understand...I mean, nineteen hundred and have to understand what was happening in places like Martin County and in the counties...counties.

Marcum: Oh, yeah. I recently spoke to a journalism class at Morehead State. And, before I left I...I told 'em that I thought there was plenty of room for young people who wanted to go into community work. There may...there may not be room for 'em...publishers may not want to hire 'em...but, I think that the story that...that is told about Kentucky is that we're a composite of a hundred and twenty counties. And, that if you're going to straighten up Kentucky you have to straighten up one hundred and twenty counties individually.

Berge: That's right.

Marcum: And, that...uh... only then, you know, you've made your mark. And, 42:00there's stories just like The Martin Countian to be told in every county in Kentucky.

Berge: Yeah. Yeah. I want to thank you.

Marcum: You're welcome.

[Tape ends at 42:07]