Note: Howard Graves attended, but did not graduate from Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore. He's a member of the college's Class of 1951.
Associated Press “Cleartime”
By Steve Elliott
Deputy Director for Content Development
Newspaper & New Media Markets
Since retiring in 1993 as
chief of bureau, Honolulu Graves
has become a celebrity to many AP staffers using the seemingly forgotten medium
He sends tearsheets from his home.
He sends tearsheets while on vacation.
He even sends tearsheets from newspapers his neighbors bring back from vacation.
To bureaus as near as
and as far away as Phoenix ,
envelopes bearing Jakarta, Indonesia Graves’ typewritten return
address carry tearsheets from The Arizona Republic, The Daily Courier of Prescott
Gallup Independent, among other newspapers. New Mexico
“We’ve gone from asking ‘How’d it play in
?’ to ‘How’d it
play in Peoria ?’”
said John Shurr, chief of bureau in Prescott “Howard Graves is the man
with the answer for us and dozens of other bureaus.” Columbia,
Lindel G. Hutson, chief of bureau in Oklahoma City, said, “I was handing out some Howard clips last week and one of the veterans quipped to a new staffer that you know you’ve arrived in the AP when you get a byline from Arizona.”
That validation comes from the mile-high community of
(it’s pronounced press’-kit, not press’-kot, he’ll remind you), about 90 miles
north of Prescott .
It’s here, amid the pines on a summer afternoon, that we catch up with the man
who calls himself “The Unaclipper.” Phoenix
Returning from our lunch,
crosses the street to the mailbox and then picks up the Courier — an afternoon
newspaper — from the driveway before heading inside.
“I’ll be darned,” he says, holding up a letter. It’s from Foster Klug, a staffer in the
bureau. Klug thanks Baltimore Graves for a tearsheet on
a travel piece he wrote from .
Japan Graves smiles. This will go into a stack of
thank you cards and letters, several inches thick, in his office.
He then opens the Courier on the kitchen counter. An AP story from
is a brief on page one. That’ll go to Chief of Bureau Bill Beecham in Idaho . A
wildfire story with byline and photo will go to the Salt Lake City ,
bureau. Helena, Mont.
bureau will receive a tearsheet with a lengthy story on an inside page — Chief
of Bureau Brian Murphy sends delightful thank you letters, Athens Graves
With that aside, Graves sits down to face an obvious question from a grateful news agency.
“It’s cheaper than playing golf,” he laughs.
But seriously, it’s because
remembers the uncertainty of sending wire stories into the void and the thrill
staffers get from seeing their work in print.
“You just never know where these stories are going to get used and why they’re going to use them,” he says.
What started out as sending tearsheets to writers he knew has become over the past several years a hobby taking up five or six hours a week and requiring not-insignificant expenditure s to the U.S. Postal Service.
What keeps him expanding this enterprise of tearing, stamping and mailing? The answer seems to lie in that stack of thank you notes.
There are letters, cards and postcards from
and Taipei , Nashville and Salt Lake City , Geneva and New Delhi . Minneapolis sent a baseball cap. Jakarta sent envelopes and mailing labels. Many
bureaus send stamps. Omaha
He pulls out a handwritten note from Angela K. Brown, correspondent in
. “Thank you so much for
sending me copies of newspapers that run my stories,” she says. “I rarely get
to see where my stories go.” Fort Worth,
“This is what a lot of the letters say,”
“They’re so pleased someone is thinking of them.”
It’s a fitting hobby for
who turns 77 in November. He began his journalism career at a weekly newspaper
in his hometown of , and spent more than 40
years with AP. His AP posts included chief of bureau in Robinson,
and Portland, Ore. ,
as well as more than a decade in Albuquerque ,
where he supervised coverage of Honolulu
and the central Pacific. He is a past national president of the Society of
Professional Journalists. Hawaii
His office is a portal of sorts back to Honolulu, where a Smith Corona typewriter similar to the one on Graves’ desk once conveyed praise and blame to this reporter.
He has no computer and insists he never will. As long as he can buy ribbons, the staccato of his typing will ring through the house he shares with Audrey, his wife of 48 years.
On the desk, behind the typewriter and next to a scale and a photocopy showing current postal rates by the ounce, there are a half dozen or so open envelopes containing tearsheets. It’s the beginning of the clipping cycle, it turns out.
mailed 20 envelopes the day before.
He returns to the thank you notes. Nordic & Baltic News Editor Matt Moore recently sent a one-and-a-half page letter catching
Graves up on AP operations in that
A note from Denver Chief of Bureau George Garties, who also sent stamps, says, “Please keep them coming. We love it.”
It’s clear that he savors each one. “That’s what it’s all about.”
— --Steve Elliott was bureau chief in
when he wrote this story. Arizona