Mikeal Knight, long-time pressman, retires from the News-Topic
Mikeal Knight spent much of the past 44 years making sure the News-Topic got printed, from the days of having to cut and paste the pages together by hand to getting computer-generated printing plates shipped electronically from Kentucky.
Wednesday was the last time.
“In my time here, I’ve seen people come in here and show me graduation pictures, wedding pictures, pictures of their children, their children’s graduation, children’s wedding and their children’s children,” Knight said in an interview, choking back tears.
Since he started work at the paper as a teenager June 30, 1969, the News-Topic changed hands three times, through six publishers, seemingly countless editors and three printing presses. He has seen 13,823 editions ship out of the News-Topic press room.
Knight, 61, started in the circulation department, a summer job before graduating from Hibriten High School in 1970 and coming to work at the paper full-time. He came to the paper because of the better hours and higher pay than his previous job, bagging groceries at a local supermarket. Soon he moved to the press room.
He left to serve in the U.S. Army from December 1971 to January 1975, then returned to Lenoir and picked up at the News-Topic where he had left off.
Knight, a Lenoir native, has seen the city change along with the paper. In the early '70s, the News-Topic was delivered in the afternoon and printed more than 17,000 copies daily, many picked up hot off the presses Monday through Friday and taken down to the furniture factories to be sold to workers leaving the gates at 3:30 p.m.
Knight has seen the paper change and the methods of printing it transform into the digital age, News-Topic publisher Terese Almquist said.
“Mikeal Knight will be greatly missed by the News-Topic, and especially the production department,” she said. “Over the years he has participated in many changes as the newspaper has transitioned to more and more technology.”
In June 1988, DeAnna Edmisten came to work at the paper, in the composition department, putting together pages and getting them ready for Knight. In July of 1989, Deanna and Mikeal were married. Today their two sons, Christian and Tyler, are nearly ready to graduate from college, and they hope to spend more time together, the main reason Knight is retiring now even though he once hoped to make it to 50 years working for the paper.
“I’m relieved in a way,” Knight said. “I planned on staying to 50, but I can’t take the 2 a.m. shift anymore. It’s a young man’s game.”
Among other experience, Knight has had to stop the presses, a phrase made famous by characters in old black-and-white movies set in newspaper newsrooms. He might not have done it as dramatically, but after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, he shut the press down mid-print so editors could get a story about it on the front page, and he explained to surprised co-workers what had just happened.
“There have been a lot of good times,” Knight said. “A lot of good friends, coworkers that became friends.”
Mikeal was surprised Wednesday with a staff celebration in his honor. Family, fellow employees and former News-Topic colleagues wished him well in his retirement, and amid the statements of "We will miss you," Knight's parting words were short and to the point: "I'll miss this place."