Betsy Fellows has announced her retirement from the Metropolis Planet.
She will be honored with a reception from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Planet office, located at 111 E. Fifth St. The public is invited to attend.
Fellows has been a part of the Planet staff for nearly 26 years, starting as the classified and circulation manager in 1985 when the Planet office was on Seventh Street.
"I had always been interested in newspapers, so when it was time to move to full-time employment, I was happy to find the Planet was looking for a staff person," Fellows said. " And of course I found out about the job by reading the Planet classifieds!"
Soon after joining the Planet staff, Fellows was on the move — being a part of the office's move to Fifth Street. "When I started, the Planet was still located on Seventh Street in a building that is no longer there. With the construction of our current building, we moved to an office with flat floors that didn't tilt," she recalled.
Shortly after the move to Fifth Street, the Planet and its staff entered the computer age. "Before that we did everything on typewriters, and had it all typeset where the paper was printed," she said. "We also began to lay out our own pages on blue lined paper, on light tables. Customers said the building smelled like melted crayons, due to the wax that held the copy to the layout pages."
During her tenure, Fellows has seen that layout process evolve to being fully technological, with the use of computers from beginning to end of the newspaper building process. And as she prepares to leave, the Planet is moving into the world of e-subscriptions.
While "those are all big changes" to witness in 26 years, Fellows is sure one thing won't change: "With the changes in technology, and centralizing many tasks, our staff has become smaller. But we all work together well, help each other out, and see to it that the best papers possible are put out each week. That won't change, I'm sure."
Since Fellows has come to the Planet, the newspaper added The Southern Scene in 1988 to serve the area — including all of Massac County and major portions of Pulaski, Johnson and Pope. A few years later, the Planet began publishing the tourism magazine Adventures Along the Ohio River.
In 2000, the Planet was purchased by Paxton Media Group, which owns the Paducah Sun and 60 other newspapers. Fellows was named the Planet's office manager in 2008 and became general manager in February 2010.
For 26 years, Fellows has seen the change not only of an industry but the community it serves.
"One of the biggest changes in newspapers is that there seem to be fewer papers, and fewer independent papers," she said. " Many large cities no longer have more than one newspaper, instead of perhaps a morning edition and an afternoon paper. And many small papers are owned by larger companies. Electronic media is another big change: some readers prefer their news online or on an e-reader, while some of us find newsprint easier and more convenient to use.
"The Planet is a great asset to Metropolis and Massac County. It provides the news we all need, and can't do without. I'm sure none of that will change," she continued. "This area is still a great place to live: that hasn't changed, and I don't think it will. We do have fewer retail businesses, but more specialty stores."
Fellows' time at the Planet has also brought her many lifetime friendships.
"All the wonderful people I have worked with through the years are clearly my best memory of the Planet. They are special friends and I treasure that friendship. Luckily, retirement won't change that!" she said. "There are some funny memories, too, of course: opening the drawer of the cash register and finding it totally empty, with no money at all — it turned out the register had two drawers, but I was pretty panicky for a while; or finding my desk covered in black when I turned 50."
Fellows and her husband Paul have been Metropolis residents for over 35 years. They have three children: sons Stephen and Andy, daughter Beth Brown and husband Rob, and a grandson, Wyatt Brown.
Fellows is a member of Metropolis First United Methodist Church and active with Massac County Historical Society, Massac County Youth Fair and Massac County United Way.
While retirement will bring her more time to enjoy those community activities, there are others Fellows is looking forward to.
"For two weeks, I plan to do absolutely nothing. After that, we'll see," she said. " I'm looking forward to more time with my grandson, and some time to enjoy all southern Illinois has to offer as well. I expect there's a few road trips in my future: I'll be that old lady cruising around in the red convertible!"
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