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Betty Morrow retires from Observer News

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By Mitch Traphagen

RUSKIN — Over the past two decades, thousands of people have come in contact with Betty Morrow at The Observer News. She handled much of the “news” that makes up the paper and everything from hand-written notices to faxed or emailed press releases have crossed her desk. It would be impossible to say how many pieces of news she has handled over the years -- suffice to say, a whole bunch.
From those uncounted press releases, wedding and engagement announcements, church notices, obituaries and so much more, she has touched tens of thousands of more people. While the writers and photographers lay claim in bylines, it was Morrow who did the hard work of putting it all together to create a newspaper each week.

After 20 years at the Observer News and 40 years in the newspaper industry, Betty Morrow will retire on May 7. Her work has touched tens of thousands of people in South County. She is pictured above, with Sweetie. Both will be greatly missed in the newsroom.  Mitch Traphagen Photo
“Betty’s signature, in the form of press release enhancements, photos and page layouts can be found throughout The Observer News,” said editor and publisher Brenda Knowles. “For more than 20 years I have heard countless publicity chairmen say, ‘Betty, thank you so much for finding that art for our press release. It was perfect! Our event was a success, it exceeded our expectations and we appreciate your help.’ Now it’s my turn to say, ‘Betty, thanks for a job well done, enjoy your retirement and remember us as fondly as we will remember you.’”
With roughly two decades at The Observer News and another two decades before that at the Tampa Tribune, Morrow has had a front row seat to the evolution of newspapers.
“I was in bookkeeping, and business was not very good when I started,” Morrow said. “I really didn’t have enough to keep me busy so I started looking for other things to do. I inched my way into production. After a while, we went to computers and everything started to change. I would work in account payables [at M&M Printing] and then I’d go over to The Observer in the afternoon to start typesetting.”
The times and technology changed rapidly during Morrow’s tenure. Press releases morphed from typed pages to faxes and now to emails.
“We are using a lot less paper than we used to,” she said. “That is both good and bad as we don’t always have a paper backup [for items that go into the newspaper]. Everything is electronic today.”
Standing on the cusp of retirement after four decades in the newspaper industry, the future is wide open for Morrow.
“Now I’m going to be me,” she said. “I’m going to go back into more music with my guitar. I’m going to use my watercolors and oil and I’m going to do much more photography. I’m working on a book for my brother, he writes View from the Road, I’m going to compile his columns into a book.”
Yet while she professes being ready to leave the news industry, the industry may not be ready to let her go. During the interview for this article, she was offered a job to work for a community newspaper in Sun City Center. Morrow smiled and said, “No.” Her paintbrushes, guitar and camera have waited long enough.
“The bigger part of me is creativity,” she said. “No,” she repeated, more forcefully this time, and then she laughed.
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