Bruce Wallace prepares the Boone County Journal Bruce Wallace prepares the Boone County Journal on Tuesday in Ashland. Wallace curates most content for the paper, which is distributed every Wednesday.
Bruce Wallace got to do one of his favorite things of the year last week: take pictures of hundreds of Ashland children in their Halloween costumes.
The children, dressed as superheroes, princesses, witches — and one as a chicken — queued up with their parents outside the Ashland Optimist Club on the north side of town and filed through the building. Wallace took their photographs as fast as he could. Even a few dogs showed up for photos in costumes.
The photographs were just one of the activities at the third annual Optimist Spooktacular. Wallace will publish the photos — a full four to five pages of them — in this week's edition of the Boone County Journal, a paper he has owned and operated for the past 16 years.
“In a silly sort of way, on a really fun day, it allows the newspaper to be a part of the community in an important way,” Wallace said of the Halloween photos.
Bruce Wallace takes a portrait of 4-year-old Nora Collins Owner of the Boone County Journal Bruce Wallace, right, learns that Nora Collins, left, is 4 years old before taking her portrait at the 'Spooktacular' event hosted Oct. 31 by the Ashland Optimist Club. Nora is an Ashland native who has had her photograph taken by Wallace every year. For 2017, she was dressed as peacock in a costume made by her grandmother.
The Journal has been in operation for nearly 50 years. Dan Fichel founded it in 1969, and after three ownership changes it was sold to Jane and Dick Flink in 1986. The Flinks kept the paper alive for 16 years before selling it to Wallace and his wife, Susan Wallace, in 2001.
“Jane Flink ... was in your face, 100 percent honest about the community, the paper and what I was getting myself into when buying the paper," said Wallace, who learned through newspaper brokers and a previous employer that the paper was up for sale. "And that was important to me.”
A lifelong love for newspapers
For the past 16 years, Wallace has been the owner, editor, publisher, advertising manager, photographer and even occasional delivery boy of the Boone County Journal. Now, he's ready to give the paper up to the next buyer.
Wallace has been in love with newspapers ever since he was a kid in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where he would wait diligently for the newspaper to arrive so he could keep up with the most important thing in the world to him: baseball stats.
“I grew up reading a newspaper. That was how I followed Major League Baseball.”
That love of baseball kindled his passion for journalism. To this day, the walls of his office are lined with baseball memorabilia, including a bat signed by the St. Louis Cardinals' Hall of Fame left-fielder Lou Brock, which he won at a charity auction for local baseball programs.
Wallace was born in 1960 in Bartlesville, just north of Tulsa, and graduated from Sooner High School in 1978. Later that fall he began his first year at the University of Arkansas.
When he was younger, his father would take him trout fishing near Arkansas. When his parents asked him why he preferred the University of Arkansas rather than going to Oklahoma State with all his friends, his response was simple.
"There's no trout in Oklahoma," he said.
When the fall of 1978 rolled around, Wallace packed up his things and eagerly moved into the Arkansas dorms.
“I started out as a business major in college and could not see myself sitting at a desk the rest of my life,” he said.“I enjoyed writing, so I looked into their journalism program, and I was hooked.”
Four years later, in 1982, he had his bachelor’s degree.
Wallace started his professional newspaper career in Fort Scott, Kansas, then went on to become a publisher at two daily newspapers, the Alexander City Outlook in Alabama and the Alice Echo News in Texas. He moved to Boone County in 2001 because he wanted a better high school for his daughters, Ashley and Amy, who attended Rock Bridge High School.
“We thought it was time to move where we wanted to live, ” Wallace said.
Bruce Wallace inserts the last of five advertisements in Boone County Journal Bruce Wallace inserts the last of five advertisements in Boone County Journal last month. The U.S. Postal Service distributes the papers every Wednesday after he drops them off at 6:30 a.m.
'The door is always open'
Wallace never intended to buy a newspaper. “It was just a matter of happenstance," he said.
Deadlines at a weekly newspaper are far scarier than deadlines at a daily newspaper, he said.
“You only have 52 chances in a year to make a budget,” he said. “You really only have one chance a week to get things right.”
Wallace keeps the paper’s morgue on hand for inspiration to remind himself of the paper's roots. The newer editions are neatly lined up and bound in hard covers to showcase the hard work that goes into each publication throughout the year.
Throughout the building there are boxes of ad sheets that Wallace and a pair of high school students insert into each paper, along with boxes of old newspapers that people from the community bring in. Most of the old papers are yellowed and tattered, but Wallace said they have character, and that it's neat to look to the past for stories that happened in a different time.
Today, the Journal is an old-fashioned, weekly newspaper that mainly caters to Ashland and southern Boone County.
The office is an old, one-bedroom house that, aside from being a traditional residence, has also seen several other uses: a veterinary office, a hair salon and an insurance office. A big sign in the front yard welcomes visitors to the paper. Wallace's travel camper is usually parked in the small parking lot to the side of the building.
The door is always open because news is always welcome, Wallace said.
The building is completely open with a big wooden desk in the foyer. To the left is Wallace’s office, decorated with old newspaper clippings, family pictures and, of course, baseball mementos. A multi-purpose desk used mainly for the design and layout of the paper sits in the back.
Wallace assembles the newspaper on his computer every Tuesday, usually around 3:30 p.m., then sends it off to be printed on the Jefferson City News Tribune's presses. When the papers come back to the Journal — a little more than 2,000 of them — he and the students add the inserts. The smell of freshly printed newspapers fills the air, and their hands become covered in black ink as they piece the papers together. The chore takes about three hours.
Wallace calls the students — Jess Duncan and Claire McGinnis — his "packaging department." They say Wallace hired them because they're organized.
You can tell if a person is organized with one simple question, Wallace said. "Do you make your bed in the morning?"
Southern Boone High School student Claire McGinnis Southern Boone High School student Claire McGinnis, right, assists Bruce Wallace with preparing the Boone County Journal for distribution on Tuesday in Ashland. McGinnis says her hands are covered in ink when she finishes assembling the paper.
On Wednesday mornings, Wallace usually wakes around 5:30 a.m. and gets to the office at 6:30 a.m. He takes the papers to the post office, which delivers them to subscribers between noon and 5 p.m. He sells some of the papers in grocery stores.
"I really don't think, 'I have to get up in the morning and go to work.' I get to play newspaper."
Advertising for the Boone County Journal is Wallace's domain, while Susan Wallace oversees the majority of the book-keeping and business end of the paper. There are three columnists on staff: Travis Naughton, Cathy Salter and Ben Herrold. There is also a news clerk, Stacy Phillips, who is a part-time employee.
Phillips builds ads, works with advertisers, edits photos and builds at least half the pages in the Journal.
"She is my right arm, which works well because I’m left-handed," Wallace said.
Retiring from ink and deadlines
Ernie Wren, who coordinated the Optimist Spooktacular, is a fan of Wallace and his newspaper.
"The Boone County Journal is a wonderful community paper that provides a more personal look into the lives of the community," Wren said.
Another reader, Jeremy Robinson, said he enjoys the paper's local reporting.
"I like his sports stuff," he said. "I love what he does for the schools and how he takes care of what needs to be done for local schools."
Despite the mutual good feelings, Wallace said he's ready to retire from the world of ink and deadlines. A smile stretched across his face, when he said he looks forward to being able to camp, hunt, bike, travel and read endless numbers of books, on top of spending time with his family and new grandson during retirement.
"If you wanna talk to me about buying the Boone County Journal, you can do that," he said.
Scenes from the Boone County Journal
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.