Hartlieb puts a wrap on six-decade newspaper career
WHEELING — When Doug Hartlieb started his career in the newspaper industry, a gallon of gasoline cost just 28 cents, the Cuban Missile Crisis was about to unfold and the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do,” was almost ready to be released.
That was in September 1962, and a lot of things changed before he finally decided to retire this past Friday — almost 61 years later.
Hartlieb got his start as an 18-year-old graduate of Bellaire’s St. John Central High School, working in the dispatch department of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register. He attended Ohio University’s Belmont County campus to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting while simultaneously climbing up the newspapers’ ranks. He noted with gratitude that Publisher G. Ogden Nutting would adjust his work schedule so he could attend his college classes.
Hartlieb said his earliest duties on the job included visiting all the “big stores” in Wheeling, such as Stone & Thomas, to pick up advertising layouts that they had designed for publication in the newspapers. From there, he joined the papers’ printing staff and served a three-year apprenticeship that was completed in-house. He became a journeyman, then assistant foreman, foreman and general foreman in charge of the whole printing operation prior to serving as the company’s production manager for 40 years.
“The printing industry didn’t change for 100 years, but when I started things started to change,” Hartlieb said. “We went from hot lead to paste up to present-day computer page design.”
No longer are lead plates that weigh 35 pounds apiece required. Instead, a laser duplicates the pdf image that gets sent to the press, etching it on an aluminum plate that only weighs about a pound, he noted.
As he adjusted to the changing times, Hartlieb also spent four decades charged with overseeing all of the company’s local printing operations and maintaining all of its Ohio Valley facilities. Among his staff have been printers, plate makers, lithographers, pressmen and mailroom employees. And he has been responsible for printing and facility maintenance for additional newspapers including The Times Leader, The Herald-Star, the Weirton Daily Times, the Wetzel Chronicle, the Tyler Star News, The Observer-Reporter, Herald Standard, Marietta Times and the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
In the course of his job duties, Hartlieb literally went through fires and floods to ensure the newspapers never missed a day of publication. Among his most memorable moments was an occasion when he was welding near the elevator pit of the Wheeling newspaper office. A stray spark fell into the pit and started a fire. He said he felt certain that he would lose his job as a result, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
“After the fire department left, Ogden came down and said, ‘That pit needed cleaned out anyhow,'” Hartlieb recalled.
Hartlieb also remembers when a fire occurred in the press room in the 1980s. Perhaps despite his better judgment, Hartlieb faced the smoke and flames to retrieve the negatives that already had been created so that the next day’s editions could be printed on another press.
He said one major change he helped to oversee was the transition from the decades-old press in the production facility at 1500 Main St. in Wheeling to the current shaftless press housed at the Ogden Newspapers Printing and Technology Center on 20th Street. The new technology allowed for higher quality and more efficient press runs. It also increased color capacity and provided more flexibility regarding the size of newsprint available to commercial printing clients.
The new printing facility was completed in January 2002, and the first paper to come off the new press was the Jan. 21, 2002, edition of The Intelligencer.
Another fond memory that stands out in Hartlieb’s mind is time spent with Perry Nardo, general manager of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register. He recalls them sitting together on the front steps of the office building on Main Street in Wheeling, watching as the Ohio River rose above flood stage and covered the road. He said they were keeping an eye on things to ensure that no water would enter the adjacent press room, which he explained had been “built like a bathtub” below ground level to keep water out. They and Hartlieb’s crew sandbagged doors and took other precautions as necessary to keep the flood from entering the buildings.
Nardo acknowledged the huge role Hartlieb has played in the evolution of the Wheeling Newspapers.
“Doug’s commitment to the newspapers over the past 60 years is second to none and is a major reason for our success,” Nardo said. “On a more personal note, Doug’s mentorship of not only me but also of all the employees he has touched over the years has been important to that success.
“He’s been a rock for everyone.”
A reception was held in Hartlieb’s honor at the Ogden Newspapers Printing and Technology Center on Thursday, just one day before he worked his final shift.
Born in Wheeling, Hartlieb moved to Martins Ferry at age 2 and lived there until he was an adult. He is a first-generation American on his mother’s side of the family, as she was born in Sicily and crossed the Atlantic Ocean with her father and other family in the 1920s. He said her family name was Marsala, while his last name comes from his father, who was of German descent.
As a result of his Italian heritage, Hartlieb has been involved with the Sons of Italy lodge in Bellaire for 22 years. He is the current vice president of the organization and a past president.
Hartlieb also has been involved in the community as a member of St. John Catholic Church in Bellaire and as a baseball coach for 25 years when his four sons were growing up.
He and wife Cynthia make their home in Bellaire. His sons include Doug, Scott, Paul and Mark Hartlieb, and he also has five grandchildren — Nolan and Quinn in Colorado, Austyn in Arizona, and Griffin and Parker here at home.
Hartlieb’s plans for retirement include a trip to Sicily to see where his grandfather and mother came from and to meet family members who still live there.
But before that happens, Hartlieb will receive a big honor on Saturday: He will throw out the first pitch during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ game against St. Louis at PNC Park — an opportunity provided in recognition of his decades of service to the newspapers.