Some might say newspaper ink flows through the veins of Robert W. “Bob” Rogers.
After all, Rogers has worked on the production side or has overseen the printing of more than a dozen newspapers during his 53-year career.
“The old production manager for the Jackson [Tenn.] Sun said I was born on the steps of the newspaper because I had been there so long. I was just a child when I went to work for them,” he said.
“I’ve had some exciting times making the daily miracle happen,” said Rogers, who retired this week as vice president of operations for BH Media Group’s publishing solutions group. BH Media owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Rogers, 68, spent most of his career working at The Times-Dispatch or its parent companies, initially Media General Inc. and then BH Media.
He began his career delivering newspapers for the Jackson Sun. He took a job in 1965 at the age of 15 inserting advertisements into the newspaper in its mailroom operations. He became a printing press operator in 1970 and later a supervisor.
In 1985, he moved to Richmond to be the assistant production director for Richmond Newspapers, which, at the time, published The Times-Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader. He left in 1989 to take a job as production director at the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.
Rogers returned a year later to The Times-Dispatch and became the newspaper’s operations director with responsibility for overseeing the construction, installation, commissioning and startup of the new production plant in Hanover County, which opened in June 1992.
That job included leading a team to travel to Japan where the presses were being made. One press was tested there before it was disassembled, shipped and reassembled at the Hanover plant, along with two other presses.
The early days of using the new presses caused some headaches, Rogers remembers. “There were some fun times there,” he said. “Like any startup of equipment, you have a period of a learning curve and growth that you’ve got to get through, and this was no exception to that.”
In 1996, he became vice president of operations for Media General’s publishing division. When Media General sold its newspapers in 2012 to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Rogers continued as vice president of operations.
“Bob is one of the best,” said Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher of The Times-Dispatch. “His specialty is building anew, but he’s a heckuva fixer as well. You always could learn a lot from him just walking through a production plant and listening as he reviewed operations or the next challenge.”
For 20-plus years, he oversaw the production operations of more than a dozen newspapers. He also oversaw the building of new production plants and adding new presses for newspapers in markets including Bristol; Lynchburg; Auburn, Ala.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and in the Bryan-College Station, Texas, area.
“It was one of those jobs that boredom spikes with sheer terror when things break and you have to get them up and going, there are no options. You have to get the presses rolling and do whatever is necessary to get the paper out,” Rogers said.
He said he has “been fortunate” in his career that all of the newspapers he oversaw produced a paper on schedule and not one missed a day for any reason.