Stacked somewhat neatly on Cristie Herbst's desk are a pile of recent editions of The Post-Journal, marked up in various colors of pen with suggestions and comments.
It's the unmistakable sign of a longtime editor at a small-city newspaper.
But the stack and other miscellaneous papers that have accumulated over the years have dwindled in recent weeks. Physical features of the desktop are now visible - not the norm for an editor just finishing a city and county budget season.
Post Journal Photo
Cristie Herbst, longtime editor of The Post-Journal, has announced her retirement, effective Jan. 4. Herbst has been the face of the Jamestown newspaper for the last 40 years.
But there's a reason for that: as the face of The Post-Journal for three decades, Herbst has announced her retirement effective Jan. 4.
As a result, her files recently have become more organized, something she hopes will help the next editor transition into the post.
"Working at a daily newspaper is a very demanding job," Herbst said. "Being editor is more than a job, it's a way of life. You are never not an editor."
She added: "I've been doing it for 30 years and I know that it's time to put the job down and let someone else pick it up."
Herbst started at the Jamestown paper in 1972, rolling tickertape in the early morning for sports editor Frank Hyde and then writing obituaries and community press releases in the afternoon before landing a general assignment reporting gig. It wasn't long before she moved on to larger reporting roles and then editor of the city and region desk.
She became editor in 1982, just 10 years after joining the newspaper.
But a lot has changed since the early '80s, none more obvious than technology. Before computers, digital cameras and scanners, there were typewriters, dark rooms and tickertape. The newspaper also was delivered in the afternoon, although numerous factors changed that to a morning publication in 1999.
"The progression of technology has been fascinating," Herbst said, motioning toward an old 1901 typewriter that has been restored to working condition. The long-since obsolete machine sits comfortably in the corner of her office.
''Quickly evolving technology is making this is an exciting and fascinating time to work at a newspaper," Herbst said. "I will miss being a part of the innovation and evolution of community journalism. But I know it is time to step aside and to let someone else take up the joys and the pressures of the job."
Those who have worked with Herbst over the years recall an eager woman who trailblazed a profession formerly dominated by men.
"She's where she's at because she earned her way," said Donald Meyer, former editor and publisher of The Post-Journal, who worked alongside Herbst for 22 years.
"We once had a guy walk through the newsroom and once we passed Cristie's office and out of ear-shot he turned to me and said, 'It's good to see you have a woman editor.' I said to him, 'You mean to say it's good to see we have such a great editor who happens to be a woman.'"
Meyer, who had a 30-year career himself in Jamestown, said Herbst was critical in establishing the Mayville Bureau at the newspaper, reporting on county government as it evolved from the county seat.
"She was never afraid of a challenge," said Meyer, 68, who now resides in Arizona but continues to work full time out of Chicago. "She has always been up to the challenge and always performed at a high level."
Said current publisher Michael Bird: "She has been a pillar of this community and newspaper for the last 30 years. That will be her lasting legacy."
Bird, who has worked with Herbst for parts of the last 20 years, said Herbst helped bring the newspaper into the digital era, posting stories online as multimedia became a standard in the industry.
"She really started blazing that trail within the last six years with digital content," Bird said. "And she has really blazed a trail within the community. I hope she stays involved.
"She will be missed here in the newsroom and in the community."
Herbst was born in Westfield, the daughter of Martha and the late Darwin Herbst. She is the fifth generation of her family to be born in Chautauqua County. She grew up in Hartfield, and by a fortunate coincidence that later landed her a job at The Post-Journal, a classmate at Mayville Central School was the daughter of her future boss and mentor, William Dempsey. He was city editor of the newspaper when Herbst was hired in 1972.
Her "big break" came in early 1973 when, because no one else in the newsroom was free at the time, as she recalls it, she was sent to Kane, Pa., to interview Gareth Anderson, a Navy flyer who had been a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for six years. Anderson was among the 591 American prisoners freed that spring under the Paris peace accord.
Asked for one memory that will stand out in her 30-year career as editor, Herbst recalls 9/11 - a day that gripped the country with confusion and fear. For the newsroom in Jamestown, however, reporters, editors and the pressroom worked in unison to produce two special editions hours after a hijacked airliner slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
"We made the decision to re-publish the paper," Herbst said. "I didn't have to call anyone in. The newsroom came in."
It is apparent old habits may die hard for Herbst, who admits she views writing of all sorts with an editorial eye.
"I read everything with a red pen," she quipped. "I read the back of a box of cereal with a red pen."
And in fitting fashion, one of Herbst's last duties as editor was to review this story for grammar and facts.