Ruff honored for newspaper career

Published 9:45 pm Friday, February 10, 2017

By Joyanna Love | The Clanton Advertiser

Jimmy Ruff, The Clanton Advertiser production manager and former press foreman for The Selma Times-Journal, received the Alabama Press Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony Thursday evening in Montgomery.

Ruff is only the second production employee to receive the award since its creation in 2003.

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The award is given to someone in the Alabama newspaper industry who has demonstrated “outstanding service and accomplishments” during a career of 25 years or more.

Ruff has spent more than 40 years in the industry. Before that he worked in construction. When that work became sparse and he had to travel away from his family, he decided he wanted to be home and that is what led him to the Times-Journal.

Ruff said then Times-Journal General Manager Wilson Koeppel would not hire him at first because he didn’t have any experience. Ruff said he went to see Koeppel every other day for two or three weeks until he got a part-time job in the mailroom and pressroom.

Ruff worked his way to foreman and eventually started his own business of press work and repair.

“I’m glad he convinced me to hire him, as he became a very important leader with Boone Newspapers, Inc. [parent company of the Times-Journal and Advertiser],” Koeppel said. “He could run, move, install and repair all press and mailroom equipment. And when a production facility needed to be modified, he used his carpentry and electrical skills to make those changes.”

Current Clanton Advertiser production manager Jimmy Ruff (left) is shown with former Selma Times-Journal publisher Shelton Prince during a STJ press run in the late 1970s.

Current Clanton Advertiser production manager Jimmy Ruff (left) is shown with former Selma Times-Journal publisher Shelton Prince during a STJ press run in the late 1970s.

Outgoing Alabama Press Association president Michele Gerlach, publisher of the Andalusia Star-News, nominated Ruff for the award.

“We have depended on him to do regular inspections of our press, to troubleshoot when we have problems, and to help us get it fixed when we were down. I have great respect for Jimmy, not only for his knowledge and expertise in the pressroom, but because he understands and appreciates what needs to happen in the newsroom and out in the community to make us the best we can be,” Gerlach said.

Ruff said he was shocked to be selected for the award.

“I had never heard of anyone in production winning an award from the press association,” Ruff said. “I don’t know what all I have done to be deserving of it. I’ve done my job, but I love my job.”

Advertiser publisher Tim Prince, son of former Times-Journal publisher H. Shelton Prince Jr., said “it means a great deal to me and many others who appreciate what Jimmy has accomplished in his career” to see Ruff receive this recognition.

“I first met Jimmy in the pressroom of The Selma Times-Journal when I was six years old. Jimmy and my father worked together at the newspaper. As a little boy, I would watch Jimmy make this noisy, whirling machine called a printing press spin gigantic rolls of paper on one end spit out newspapers on the other.  I remember gazing with amazement at what Jimmy was doing and getting done — I still do,” Prince said.

Ruff’s production career began in October 1977.

“I would go there on my off days, go down there and learn, get them to show me stuff, so I could learn. I wasn’t making anything. I needed to learn it fast, so I could start making some money to support my family,” Ruff said.

The hard work paid off and Ruff received promotions to mailroom manager, pressroom manager and later production manager.

On his days off, Ruff traveled with the person who fixed Boone Newspapers’ printing presses to learn the mechanics of the machines. Now, Ruff fills this role.

“I just like the printing industry. I am fascinated with the printing press, how it operates,” Ruff said. “I enjoy working on the machines.”

At each location, Ruff teaches them more about the press and learns new things from them.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I still learn. I never stop learning,” Ruff said.

Ruff came to Clanton in 2002 to assist in building the printing plant at the Advertiser. The newspaper in Clanton now prints 17 newspapers each week.

“I liked it here and I asked for the position to run the plant,” Ruff said.

Ruff was joined for the ceremony by his wife, Teresa; BNI chairman Jim Boone; CEO Todd Carpenter; Prince; Times-Journal publisher Dennis Palmer; and other newspaper associates and friends.

The Alabama Press Association contributed to this report.