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'One hell of a ride': Dobbs reflects on his two decades as editor of The Reminder

For two decades, Mike Dobbs has been the editor for Reminder Publications, which produces weekly newspapers for many communities across western Massachusetts. Friday is his last day, as he's retiring from full-time work, but will continue to write for the papers on a freelance basis.

Earlier this week, most of his office in East Longmeadow had already been packed up. That is, except two keepsakes featuring the cartoon character Popeye, his favorite since he was five. Dobbs has also written a book on the studio that created the spinach-guzzling sailor.

Mike Dobbs, Reminder Publications: It was one of the biggest thrills of my life to meet the voice actor who was Popeye for 50 years, Jack Mercer, as well as animators who worked on the classic Popeye cartoons. So yes, the Popeye is the last artifact here in the office. I go, he goes. He go, I go. That's the way it works.

Adam Frenier, NEPM: Just talk about the last two decades — what's this been like for you, this experience?

It's been one hell of a ride. Because during the last two decades ... we've seen so much introduction of new technology and new ideas. Ultimately, though, it's been two decades of trying to do what we need to do here as an organization, which is the ground level community journalism that is our meat and potatoes. So we're the ones that are going to select board meetings and city council meetings and talking to mayors, and fielding responses from our readers about things like whether or not the streets have been plowed and what does that mean.

And so, all of the stuff that that affects people on a daily basis is what we've been doing. And no matter what or how the technology changes, there is still a real need for that kind of of basic information.

Adam Frenier, NEPM: Over the last several years, there's been a decline in the print news industry. However, The Reminder has gone to the other direction, actually adding editions and doing so successfully. Why do you think that's been the case?

Well, I think that, no. 1, we've been lucky enough to be part of an organization that sees, which is Advance, which sees a value in print still. No. 2, when we were bought by The Republican about five years ago now, the gentleman who was assigned to us, Fran Smith, he had this plan and the plan was, let's bring a home-delivered free community newspaper to basically everywhere we can. And because we have the support of advertisers who want to get their advertising out into individuals' homes, this all worked out pretty well.

It's not been easy. And certainly, we did expansion during the pandemic and that was really challenging to do so much of it remote and so much of it via Zoom and that type of thing.

Reminder Publications editor Mike Dobbs sits in his office — nearly all cleaned out — a few days before his retirement.
Adam Frenier
Reminder Publications editor Mike Dobbs sits in his office — nearly all cleaned out — a few days before his retirement.

Weekly newspapers have an advantage that the dailies don't have in which our news cycle is different. We allow ourselves more time, we allow ourselves more space to cover stories and to do stories. And so that kind of more in-depth reporting and comprehensive reporting runs counter to the 24-hour cycle where everything's got to be immediately put up on the web and immediately brought to the audience. We're finding that people like sitting down and reading a newspaper. And it still works.

Mike, as you look back at the last two decades, are there a couple of stories that stand out to you as you get ready to leave this office for the final time this week?

I have to say that the biggest Christmas present that we received as journalists in this area was casino gaming. That was a gift that kept on giving. There was story-after-story-after-story for years, and in many ways, it's not over yet. We still don't have sports betting in place and we still don't know how that's going to affect things. I have to say that was really a standout story, just how all of that came about.

I've also really enjoyed covering the whole growth of the cannabis industry. And as we're seeing, it's been a very unlikely but potent economic driver for many communities here. Just those two stories alone, you know, we've spent a lot of time working on them and it's been a lot of fun.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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