People behind the newspaper: Editor-in-Chief Mary Delamater
Editor’s note: In honor of Sun Journal’s 175th anniversary this year, we’re spotlighting some of Sun Journal’s employees.
Last name: Marie Delamater
Years of Service: 50 years and over. I started part-time as a proofreader in July 1971.
Current position: Copy editor on the night editing desk
Other positions held at Sun Journal: Proofreader, freelance writer, photographer and journalist.
What do you like most about your job?
First, to serve readers by providing them with the latest accurate news in their communities. I’ve lived in western Maine all my life, so I’ve gained a lot of institutional knowledge about people, places, and events that helps me spot errors in stories and fix them. Second, all the relationships I’ve made with a wide range of people. Third, the wealth of knowledge I gained from reading and researching so many stories about all aspects of life.
What are your most memorable moments?
There are many, but three come to mind.
I was covering a hearing in a murder case in Oxford County Superior Court in Paris one afternoon and the defendant called himself a “sacrificial lamb.” Shortly after I arrived at the Lewiston office to write the story, a very tall Viking guy with long blond hair and wearing a white tank top came to my office (there was no security there). era) and put a small brown cardboard box on my desk and left. Nothing was said. I stupidly opened it and inside was a little stuffed lamb. No notes. I knew who sent it. I called the state police who came to pick it up, and when my shift was over they escorted me home and found everything was fine there.
I made a mistake in writing a list of court cases and the person named sued the newspaper for a good amount of money. I felt so guilty and scared that I was fired and cost the company a lot of money. I stood up and testified that it was an unintentional mistake. The jury awarded the defendant only $500. When the court adjourned, James Costello Sr., the newspaper’s editor, came up to me and gave me a big hug and a warm smile. I was so relieved and so grateful for her response. And then he took me to lunch with the company lawyer.
A third memorable moment was covering the Grateful Dead when they came to Oxford Plains Speedway in the 1980s. I had never seen anything like it in my life! The crowds, the traffic, the smoke, the Deadheads. It was surreal to see over 100,000 people in that space. Michael Liberty, who owned the track at the time, was concerned for my safety and walked me from the press box to the racetrack and through the crowd to the pit area. Along the way, we were offered “tricks”. I got the story and some photos and took a black and white panoramic shot of the scene from the top of the press box for a personal keepsake. My first and only concert experience with Grateful Dead.
What brought you to the Sun Journal originally?
My husband was working in the composition room at the time and someone asked him if I would be interested in part-time proofreading. I agreed and eventually worked on headlines for the Associated Press Wire Desk. One evening the city editor said there was an opening in the regional news service, which covered areas outside of Lewiston-Auburn. I moved there and it was a dream job editing copy, reporting on all sorts of stories, doing photography, typing obituaries, laying out the Oxford news pages Hills and talking with so many people from so many walks of life.
Fifty years is a very long time. What kept you at the Sun Journal?
The newspaper opened the door for me and I stayed because I was appreciated and the work is interesting, important, stimulating and educational. As a child, I used to go to my neighbor’s house on Sundays and get her newspaper for my father to read, but I never read a newspaper until I entered SJ. I took a typing course in high school to fill a gap in study, not knowing that I would be using this skill for my entire career. I see it all as part of a divine plan.
During these years, did you become known for certain character traits? During my time on the copydesk, I acquired the nickname “Mary Deleter” due to my reputation for doing major surgery on long pieces that were: 1. crushed; 2. too long for the space on the page; 3. had irrelevant information; or 4. didn’t make sense. My scalpel/chainsaw was sharp and precise, taking only what was necessary for readers to know and not destroying anyone’s work. And make deadline. For this I got the nickname.
A former editor has entered a nationwide contest organized by Editor & Publisher magazine about editors who are unsung heroes for their work checking, correcting and polishing stories. She wrote about my work ethic and skills and said that when I had a really messy piece to edit, I would often complain first, start digging, and say, “Job Security.” His entry was one of the few winners of the competition.
Interesting or funny personal fact about yourself?
I like lit trees, all year round. They encourage me. So I have one inside my house, outside my house decorated for each month; I have a wooden one that was made for the newsroom in Lewiston which I decorate each month with a theme and lights; and I have my 1996 Christmas tree, minus all the needles, decorated with white lights in a garden at Mechanic Falls Christian Campground where I volunteer as a trustee to maintain the buildings and grounds.
Anything you would like to share: I couldn’t have imagined that I would spend 50 years in the same job and still enjoy it. A former editor once said that his idea of success in journalism was to work for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or other big-city newspapers. I said my definition of success is doing something you love, living in a part of the country you love, and being surrounded by family. I had half a century of success as a journalist.
This People Behind the Paper is the first in a series of spotlights on Sun Journal employees. As the Sun Journal celebrates 175 years of publishing, you’ll be introduced to the dedicated and talented people who make it happen. Our employees are your neighbors and each is committed to our mission to inform, challenge and reflect the communities we serve.
Chapter 9: The Life and Times of James Lowell