High Desert Hero
A publisher couldn't ask for a better operations director than Bob Pendleton
"This is what I love to do. It's been a lifelong education. Our operation has grown so much that it's been 15 years since I've run the press. These days I'm dealing with computers and front-end systems, and I like the work."
- Bob Pendleton
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Freedom Communications, Inc.
This is the story of a man who was in search of a home, but found his heart and soul instead.
For the first 18 years of his life, Bob Pendleton had lived the nomadic life of a military brat. The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, Pendleton and his family would uproot and move every two or three years from base to base. There were tours in Germany; England; Biloxi, Miss.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Florida.
"I always had friends wherever I went, but I never had a home," Pendleton said wistfully, recalling his childhood.
The last stop, at age 18, for Pendleton was Victorville, Calif., where his father was stationed at nearby George Air Force Base.
When the high brass eventually called his dad for yet another reassignment, Bob, a fresh graduate from high school, said "no" to another move. He was staying put. He had a new job at the Victorville Daily Press in the production department.
"I was always interested in mechanics and they asked me if I wanted to learn to run the press," he explained. "I saw this huge piece of machinery and it fascinated me."
That was 1962, and Pendleton hasn't moved since. By finding his home, Pendleton also discovered his life's passion putting out a daily newspaper.
"This is what I love to do," he said while leaning against an ink-stained press unit. "It's been a lifelong education. Our operation has grown so much that it's been 15 years since I've run the press. These days I'm dealing with computers and front-end systems, and I like the work." Now 57, Pendleton is Victorville's operations director and has been given the moniker of "high desert hero" by folks at the newspaper, especially Publisher Ed Nichols.
"In my 30 years of publishing, I have never seen anyone as dedicated as Bob. He is 100 percent committed to this company. Bob finds a way to meet any challenge thrown at him. What might send another person into a tailspin equipment breakdowns, late ads and copy Bob handles with aplomb and gets the paper out on time," Nichols said.
Sometimes, getting out the paper on time means helping another newspaper get its paper out on time. Such was the case with the Antelope Valley Press when mechanical problems shut down its press. Pendleton responded immediately, getting the Valley Press classified section printed and bundled.
Pendleton's most daunting challenge came after he and Nichols heard William Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group, talk about having his papers convert to a smaller press web width during NEXPO in Las Vegas. Singleton said MediaNews Group had saved $30 million on newsprint since making the change.
"As we were leaving the session, Ed said to me, 'We're going to do this.' I knew right then I had a lot of work ahead of me," Pendleton said.
Shrinking the Daily Press web page size from 27.5 inches to 25 inches wasn't going to be easy. But with escalating newsprint prices, the conversion would eventually save the newspaper $100,000 in newsprint costs during 2000.
Pendleton was methodical in his approach to making the change and sought vendors who could provide the necessary materials, but at the lowest costs.
The Daily Press became one of Freedom's first newspapers to make the conversion.
"Bob was one of the first operations directors to convert our press to the narrower web width and he came in 25 percent under budget for the project," Nichols said. "But he didn't stop there. Bob also consulted with other Freedom newspapers regarding their conversions and helped them through their projects by sharing his experience."
One of those newspapers was The Porterville Recorder in Central California.
"We also had a single-wide press but we had absolutely no idea how to make the conversion," said Pat Canty, former publisher in Porterville. "Bob Pendleton stepped in, guided us through the process step-by-step and made what appeared to be a very difficult transition, very easy. We couldn't have done it without him. He was invaluable."
When Freedom Communications purchased the Barstow Desert Dispatch, executives said the only way to make the newspaper profitable was to scrap its presses and have the newspaper printed in Victorville. Again, Pendleton met the challenge, taking on not only Barstow's printing, but its mailroom operations as well.
Pendleton embodies what Nichols calls "the Victorville spirit."
"He'll jump in his car or get on an airplane and help another production director in Freedom," Nichols said. "He's available for any crisis. He comes in on a moment's notice."
When you ask him about his dedication to the Daily Press, Pendleton shrugs his shoulders and an "aw shucks" expression comes over his face.
"It's simply what I love to do," he explained in a quiet tone. "I can't imagine doing anything else."