By: E&P Staff
Thomas E. Norton, who retired 12 years ago as production director of the Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., died on May 16. He was 76.
A Times Leader employee since 1951, Norton was remembered as “a real stickler for quality,” according to an obituary in his paper. “He took an extreme amount of pride in what he did,” said his son, Thomas R. Norton. “The newspaper was his life.”
In his 46 years at the Times Leader, Norton saw the industry change from hot type to digital imagesetting and from letterpress to offset printing. In the mid-1990s, he oversaw the move to a new production plant — the first to take a manroland Geoman offset color tower press into operation in the U.S.
Calling Norton “a legend,” E.W. Scripps Newspaper Operations Vice President Mark Contreras, the Times Leader’s publisher when the new plant was put into production, told staff writer Geri Anne Kaikowski, “We were really blessed by having him work at The Times Leader.” Contreras said he recalled Norton talking about new press, “saying that we needed it to be competitive in the market. He was right. We had great color quality after that and it helped us in generating a lot of revenue.”
Norton held several jobs after apprenticing in production. He was among those who stayed at the paper and helped it restart publication after more than 200 union members walked out in 1978. That bitter strike led to creation of the still-competing Citizen’s Voice, the striking unions’ eventual decertification, and the Times Leader’s successful effort to regain circulation.
“We started down a road together to try to save this newspaper in 1978,” recalled Richard L. Connor, then and now again the newspaper’s editor and publisher. Connor, who also is part-owner of the daily (which bounced from Capital Cities to Disney, Knight Ridder, and McClatchy ownership), was put in charge of the paper shortly after the strike began.
“At one time or another all the Nortons worked at the Times Leader,” Connor told his paper. “They allowed us to join their family. And we were honored. His passing marks a time in his life and mine when he produced a newspaper for this community — a newspaper we needed — against all odds. It worked because of his understanding of production. I am sad at his passing. He was one of the old school that I began my career with.”
Wilkes-Barre Publishing Co. President Prashant Shitut credited Norton with “developing new talent in the company” and for the “support and guidance that generated my interest in newspaper production.”
Among those benefiting from Norton’s mentoring was his son, who started his newspaper career working for his father at the Times Leader. The younger Tom moved to the Daily Record, Parsippany, N.J., and then on to The York (Pa.) Dispatch as production director. He was promoted to operations vice president when a joint operating agency took over business and production for the Dispatch and the York Daily Record.
In addition to his son, Norton is survived by his wife, Marjorie, daughter Sandra Trzcinski, a brother and two sisters.