GLOVERSVILLE - There was a time when Patricia "Pat" Beck would not have envisioned herself being the guiding force behind a local news organization.
Now that Beck inches closer toward retirement on March 31 - after more than 17 years as publisher of The Leader-Herald - she looks back with personal and professional satisfaction.
"I am proud," she says. "I believe the newspaper has continued to be a vital part of our local community."
Leader-Herald Publisher Patricia Beck, shown in her office, is retiring effective March 31.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Mayfield native Beck actually has accomplished a more than 30-year career in journalism and communications. It has mostly encompassed work at The Recorder newspaper in Amsterdam and later at The Leader-Herald.
Beck said she's been "very fortunate" to work at family-owned newspapers.
The Amsterdam resident, an admitted "self-made" professional who attended Fulton-Montgomery Community College for secretarial science in 1968, says she's also proud of the help she has received over the years.
Beck was the first president of the New York State Advertising Executives and one of the first female presidents of the New York State Publisher's Association, which is now called the New York News Publishers Association. Currently, she serves on the board of directors of the publishers group. She is proud wherever she sees women in leadership roles.
Current New York News Publishers Association President Diane Kennedy said Beck's retirement represents a "sad" day for journalism.
"She's always very cheerful," she said. "She's got a great sense of humor, very well organized and very professional."
Beck, who has served with many regional civic and community groups, says the "outside world" doesn't understand all the detail that goes into publishing a local newspaper every day.
"I'm very proud of the number of employees still here today," the 64-year-old Beck states. "I've learned from them. The new publisher who comes in is going to be fortunate to work with a veteran staff."
She also said she owes a "debt of gratitude" to the "scores of good and great people" she's worked with over the years.
Key members of The Leader-Herald staff say they have a lot of respect for Beck.
"She's always there to listen if we have issues with the department, to guide us through problems and have a positive outcome at the end," said Circulation Director Toni Mosconi. "I think, pretty much, she can sit down with any of our jobs and get the job done. I think she's a fantastic person and she'll be truly missed by everyone."
Managing Editor Tim Fonda, who has worked on editorial issues with Beck for 15 years, said, "Pat has been a great asset to the newspaper and the community. She has been a strong supporter of good community journalism and the First Amendment. I've always had a great deal of respect for her judgment."
He said Beck, as a local newspaper publisher and a member of many local organizations, has advocated for positive changes throughout the area.
"We wish her a lot of happiness in her retirement," he said.
"One quality Pat has is [being] a very fair and honest supervisor," said Leader-Herald Accounting Supervisor Jim Cornell. "She will tell you how and where you stand, like it or not. She has always treated the entire staff of the operation with respect and equality."
Cornell said Beck's work in advertising helped her with the revenue side of the finances at the newspaper. He said Beck has had to oversee a newspaper that publishes 364 days a year and has a multimillion-dollar commercial printing operation.
Beck said she never was more aware of the professionalism of The Leader-Herald staff than when the paper dealt with the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. While terrorists flew planes into iconic buildings in New York City and Washington D.C., the paper's staff had to deal with tremendous pressure in getting the news out to the public by the day's deadline. It also was an emotional time for staff members. A former editor, she recalls, was waiting for the phone to ring from family members downstate.
"Emotionally, they were being affected," Beck said. "I saw everyone do their job."
Beck was hired by Ogden Newspapers in 1990 as advertising director of The Leader-Herald and was named publisher on Dec. 1, 1996.
In an interview in her office on the first floor of The Leader-Herald building on East Fulton Street, Beck recounted one of her personal heroes: Katharine Graham, a former publisher of The Washington Post. Beck embraces a Graham quote for her own: "To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?"
In Beck's office hangs a photo in which she stands with former Gov. George Pataki - a testament to the powerful people she has come into contact with over the years. Also in the picture is State Committee on Open Government Executive Director Robert Freeman, whom Beck has consulted with on issues related to government transparency.
Career began in broadcasting
Beck's career in journalism actually started on the broadcasting side. She worked for local radio stations WMVQ and WKOL in the early 1980s and was approached by then-Recorder Publisher Charlie Miller to join the newspaper as a talk-show host. The Recorder at the time signed a 10-year lease agreement with Time Warner on local TV station Channel 8. She worked at The Recorder for about 12 years, leaving as advertising director.
"I really knew from the very first time I became part of the inner workings of a newspaper and had the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of people that this was what I wanted to be a part of," Beck said.
She said she owes a "great deal" to former Recorder Publisher Frank Gappa and former Leader-Herald Publisher Joe Bradley, her immediate predecessor.
"I have always taken advantage of people," Beck said. "Not in the negative way that some may take that statement, but in taking advantage of people who were willing to teach and mentor along the way. For example, I never took a computer class, but had a professional that I was working with recognize my interest and took the time to teach. And I took advantage of that opportunity, and today, thanks to doing so, am pretty computer savvy."
During her tenure at the helm of The Leader-Herald, Beck said, gathering local news has entailed a "healthy competition" with other area newspapers and broadcast outlets.
"You want to be first, but as important, you want to be accurate," Beck said.
During her career as a newspaperwoman, Beck said the technology has changed dramatically.
"My granddaughters will never know what a camera with film is that had to be developed," she said. "Our [former photo] dark room is now the break room. These changes, as they evolved, have been good."
Something else that has evolved, Beck says, is the way newspapers have become a bigger part of the community. She has played a personal role in presenting Leader-Herald events, including the annual Fulton County Spelling Bee, Taste of Home Cooking School and the Air Force Band shows.
"It's a give-back to the community," Beck said. "The newspaper certainly has its own directive. But as a local business, we need to interact with other local businesses in the community. It provides us a much better awareness of what's going on in the community."
Beck's personal community involvement through the past 24 years has included: serving on the board of directors of the former Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Montgomery County, director for the Foundation of the former Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, member of Soroptimist International Fulton County, member of St. John's Episcopal Church Vestry, president of the Gloversville BID, and president of the Gloversville Economic Development Corp.
She has been a past board president of the Mental Health Association in Fulton and Montgomery Counties, Family Counseling Center and Big Brothers-Big Sisters. She is a director emeritus of the Fulton County United Way.
She has served as chairwoman of the former Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and Fulton-Montgomery Community College Foundation.
"We've had a long, and I think wonderful relationship," current Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer said of Beck. "I think she's done wonderful things in the community. I know she's been an asset."
FMCC President Dustin Swanger added, "I think Pat Beck has been a strong voice for the community, both at The Leader-Herald and in her volunteer work. She's a vision for the community when she gets involved. She's very dedicated."
Beck is a former recipient of the Fulton County Executive of the Year Award, the Founder's Day Award by the Gloversville Central Council Parent Teacher Association, the Soroptimist Woman of Distinction, the state Sen. Hugh T. Farley Certificate of Merit for Women's History, and the Juliette Low Women of Distinction honor from Mohawk Pathways Council Inc.
"My civic involvement in the community has certainly helped me to be a better publisher," Beck said.
Beck said she stayed in this area her entire life and worked in Fulton and Montgomery counties in part because of the "wonderful people, great people here." She said a newspaper should act as a mirror of the community.
She also has dealt with some people in that community contacting her to criticize the newspaper over the years.
"I believe constructive and some deconstructive criticism means we're doing our job, and I have always welcomed it," Beck said.
Beck and her husband, Skip, have two children and two granddaughters - Grace and Camryn. After she retires, Beck said, she looks forward to spending more time with her granddaughters' school and sports activities.
"I have to reinvent myself," she said with a smile.
Beck said she will be traveling and "may" be interested in area politics in the future.
"Whatever is ahead, I will be doing something that gives back to the community," she said.
She said the hardest part of being publisher is "dealing with personal tragedies" in the news that affect the people you know as neighbors and friends.
And newspapers, she insists, are not dead.
"I do see a future for [newspapers]," Beck said. "It may be delivered differently, whether it's through the phone or by computer. Every community still needs a reliable source to gather factual information."
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org