A Happy Retirement: The Post-Searchlight bids farewell to Mark Pope after over 40 years

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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The Post-Searchlight is bidding farewell to a long-time employee this week. After 41 years here, Mark Pope has retired from his role as press manager of the Post-Searchlight.

Having begun working in the press room at 20 years old in 1982, Mark recounted how much the newspaper industry has changed in the intervening decades.

“When I first started working here we had film,” he explained. “We had to put the pieces of film together and make a plate, you’d put the film over the plate and expose it to light so your image would transfer to the plate.”

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Back then the newspaper still had a darkroom, with three people employed in it, and five involved in stripping and burning plates. The crew involved in running the actual press was also larger at the time. It wasn’t until Sam Griffin sold the paper to Boone Newspapers in 2008 that the press upgraded to more modern equipment.

Mark has worn multiple hats over the years, starting in the darkroom and moving on to do almost every other sort of job at the paper.

“I’ve done just about everything at the paper,” he said. “I’ve actually taken photos, gone to games and taken photos. I’ve put a couple of stories in the paper over the years, but not very many.” He did joke that he’d never been involved in bookkeeping though.

“It wasn’t planned at all, it just kind of turned out that way.”

When Mark began working in the press room, there were originally two men over the press, LC Brown and Earl Breedlove. After Brown passed away and Breedlove was physically unable to continue working on the press, Mark left the dark room to work on the press. The Post-Searchlight’s production manager would leave not long afterwards, at which point Griffin promoted Mark to production manager.

Over the years, the press room grew to print multiple other regional papers besides the PSL, and would eventually add American Classifieds to their printing roster.

“And that made the business grow a lot,” Mark said.

Griffin would go on to appoint Mark as the general manager of the Post-Searchlight, where he would remain for several years. For some time he found himself in the unenviable position of having to manage not just the press room, but also the newsroom.

“When you’re in the front and in the back, it’s just a ton of stuff to deal with,” he said.

He also recalled the trials that came with Hurricane Michael, during which time the Post-Searchlight was left without power, and had to rely on presses in Valdosta to get everything printed.

“That’s the only time, in all my years, that anybody else has printed the Post-Searchlight.” As the PSL was left without power for days, and with a new week approaching, Mark did what he could to get the lights back on.

“The post office is right next door to us and they had power… and the courthouse had power, and here we are right next door to each other and I don’t have power,” he said. “We’re about to go into a new week, and all these communities all around us had important stories to put out about the hurricane. So I started calling Sanford Bishop, and I told all the publishers in southwest Georgia that we printed, I said, ‘You’ve gotta call him’… and it worked.”

Sometime after Michael, Mark would seriously consider retirement. The Post-Searchlight would thoroughly search for his replacement, delaying his retirement plans, until finding Johnathon Smith.

Mark did not take all the credit for the hard work at the Post-Searchlight. “There were just tons of good people, and that’s what made it possible,” he said. “You know, you lose a lot of people… and a lot of good ones.” Mark likened the PSL staff to family, recalling working with, and losing, Sam Griffin in 2015; he also recalled being called to the scene of Hubert Moore’s murder in 2017.

He also reflected on those who have remained at the Post-Searchlight as long as him, like Beverly Stubbs. “I’ve been here 41-and-a-half years,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s at 39 or 40.”

Mark thanked the customers who have supported the Post-Searchlight over the years. He said he does not know what he plans to do with the rest of his retirement, “But I’m definitely gonna take a couple of months off and not do anything but fish… my aunt lives up in Athens, I’m gonna go visit her, haven’t seen her in a while.”

“I’ve had a good life, raised my family, did most of everything I wanted to do, except have all the time off in the world, and that’s what’s coming.”