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Longtime editor Ross to retire after 42 years in journalism
The Yuma Sun will host an open house Wednesday to allow the public to say goodbye to retiring longtime editor Terry Ross and welcome incoming editor Roxanne Molenar.
Staff will give tours of the newspaper offices from 3 to 6 p.m., and the public will be able to see the presses run from 4 to 6 p.m.
The Yuma Sun is at 2055 S. Arizona Ave. For more information, call 783-3333.
Just because Terry Ross is retiring as the Yuma Sun's longtime editor doesn't mean he's done with writing. He plans to continue contributing regularly to the paper.
But after 42 years in journalism, 64-year-old Ross looks forward to relaxing without the pressures of newspaper deadlines.
Some might say he was meant to be a journalist. Born in Oklahoma in 1948, Ross' first experience with newspapers occurred shortly after his birth. He and his brother, Larry, were one of four sets of twins born the same week at the same hospital. The local paper came out and took a photo of the twins and published it in the newspaper.
His parents decided to return to Yuma, where they had lived during the Dust Bowl and still had family. His dad worked in agriculture and as a day laborer, and his mother was a cook.
After graduating from Yuma High School in 1966, Ross and his brother, the youngest of five siblings, decided to study journalism at Arizona State University.
“When I was a kid, I had a big interest in newspapers,” he recalled.
Ross delivered newspapers during his high school years. His mother was an avid reader, and he got into the habit of reading newspapers as well.
“I had always been interested in what they did,” he said.
In 1970, Ross and Larry became the first in their family to graduate from college. While his brother remained in the Phoenix area before heading to California, Ross took a job as a reporter/photographer with the Maui News in Hawaii.
Ross returned to Yuma in 1975 to work for The Yuma Daily Sun, first as a reporter/photographer and later as news editor.
In 1981, he headed to Greeley, Colo., to work as the news editor at the Greeley Tribune.
After a year, he returned to The Yuma Daily Sun, where he remained until the present, working as news editor, managing editor and editor through the years.
When Ross first joined The Sun, “it was the golden era of newspapers. They were still the primary news reporter. TV and radio had roles in news, but the primary news source for the community was the afternoon paper (which the Sun was then),” Ross explained.
“Reporters were pretty much general assignment reporters. I covered the city, county and some police and courts.”
The news events that stuck in his mind from that era are the “major” crime stories. In particular, he remembers the '78 Tison murders, when a Yuma Marine and his family were killed after they stopped to help stranded motorists on Highway 95.
The stranded motorists, dubbed the Tison Gang — two escaped convicts and one of the convict's three sons — shot and killed the Marine, his wife, infant son and niece. A massive manhunt ended nearly two weeks later, after they killed four more people.
The Tison murders greatly affected Yumans, Ross said. “We realized that we weren't as secure and safe as we thought.”
Another case that impacted the community was Jennifer Wilson's murder, who was only 9 when her life was taken in 1988. Her death still impacts the community, he noted.
These high-profile murders are perhaps the most memorable, but Ross pointed out that The Sun's main role has been to record the “day-to-day life” of Yuma.
“I always thought the most important thing was community journalism, telling the ordinary stories perhaps other agencies wouldn't have any interest in and carrying on the traditions of the community. We're not only reporters but also protectors and boosters in the community.”
Additionally, as editor, Ross valued his role in helping to set a community agenda — “This is what we think is important and what we need to do.”
Ross is also proud to have been part of several revolutions in technology at the Yuma Sun.
“I don't think people realize the Yuma Sun has been a leader in newspaper technology. When I first came to the paper, we were one of the first newspapers in the state, maybe the first newspaper, that adopted computer-driven technology.”
The newspaper was also the first in the state to switch from hot metal plate to offset printing, the technology most newspapers use today, he said.
Ross has also witnessed the digital revolution, as the Yuma Sun kicked off one of the first news websites in the 1990s.
“It's been an interesting life, which is one of the reasons I went into newspapers. You never know for sure what will happen when you come in. You think you will have an ordinary day, and all of sudden there's breaking news.
“Every day has the potential for being an exciting day. That's what makes news such a great profession.”
He recognizes that the digital revolution isn't over, calling it “inevitable.” But he doesn't believe it means the end of newspapers.
“Digital improves our ability to tell the story in a timely manner, to add photographs, audio and video. It can be an improved experience. It isn't the death of newspapers,” Ross said.
“Newspapers will continue to do the basic function of a community newspaper, and that is tell the story of the community, be history keeper of the community and be an agenda setter.”
Nevertheless, he believes for years to come people will still want a hard copy, “something they can hold. There's a satisfaction to holding a newspaper and hearing the pages rustle.”
Far from harming newspapers, digital technology is only another change in the industry, he said.
“Just like when I started in the business. We had typewriters and some were afraid to go to computers, but we adapted to produce a better product.
“Newspapers have been adapting forever, my entire career, sometimes reluctantly, but we survived, and people keep reading them and paying for them. We might look different, but we won't be that different.”
Ross will continue to adjust in the next phase of his life. He has received a lot of advice on how — and how not — to adjust, he quipped.
He will remain in the community and continue to do some writing for the newspaper.
“I won't be entirely gone. Writing has been a part of my life since I graduated from college.
“Mostly I hope to be able to relax, do more things in my own time, than the deadline-driven life of a newspaper allows. I will be doing some pleasure reading.
“But my primary goal is to enjoy whatever I'm doing,” he added.