Scooter MacMillan, Editor
For more than two decades, this newspaper has gone to print with a variety of editors able to breathe easier and relax more fully from the tension of surviving story deadlines.
Lots of editors don’t get to enjoy that sense of calm while their newspapers are committed to ink on newsprint because they haven’t had the services of a super dependable team of proofreaders.
While we are confident we will continue to put out a newspaper with a minimum of mishaps like “pubic” when “public” was intended and other such typographical and grammatical faux pas (not faux passes, faux pas is both the singular and plural — right Beth?), much of our confidence is based upon the tradition of strong proofreading Beth Merritt helped continue at the newspaper since the late 1990s.
Merritt has decided to step away from the rigors of proofing to spend more time traveling and with grandchildren. We wish her well and will miss her.
Two people who will miss her in particular are Mike and Janet Yantachka. For several years, the Yantachkas and Beth and her late husband Edd Merritt were The Charlotte News’ proofreading team.
“We would meet every other week in the evening a few days prior to publication of The Charlotte News at the Merritts’ kitchen table to go over the paper draft copy,” the Yantachkas said. “We each read every word of every article and added our markups.”
By the time the others showed up and began reading, Beth Merritt had already had time to read the copy, so she kept the rest of the team fueled with snacks and drinks during the four-hour proofing process.
When the three of them were befuddled by a reference or a piece of local trivia, Edd Merritt would call out, “Hey, Beth!”
In an email, the Yantachkas said, “She never failed to answer our questions from her extensive knowledge base. What she wasn’t sure of, she would do some research to make sure our information was accurate.”
They said Beth Merritt is a great example of how teamwork at different levels of the publication’s production process helps keep the local newspaper’s standards high.
For a decade former publisher Vince Crockenberg said he and Beth Merritt were the newspaper’s proofreading team.
“She was a perfect copy-editing partner. She was unflappable in the face of deadlines and always got the work done on time,” Crockenberg said.
He admitted that sometimes they argued “good naturedly about the merits of the serial comma, whether headlines should be in upper case or lower case, and a myriad of other questions that only grammar dweebs can get excited about.”
“We were never able to turn out a perfect, error-free paper, but we had fun trying,” Crockenberg said. “And I would certainly do it all over again with her. It was a great run while it lasted.”
People talking about Beth Merritt’s sense of calm in the eye of the deadline storm begin to sound as if they’re getting ready to quote from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.”
Alex Bunten, who was editor in 2015, echoed that theme, saying that she was “always a calm presence in the news room, even in the stressful last hours before deadline.”
Bunten said, when the copy came to the Merritts for proofing “from a rattled editorial crew,” sometimes Edd Merritt would get “distracted and launch into a long, arching story about this or that local in the paper, Bob Dylan — or naval service.”
In spite of Edd’s penchant for storytelling, Bunten said, “Beth would be working away, making sure the paper was fit for print. Both had their role to play and both were very much appreciated in my time as editor.”
Nancy Wood founded The Charlotte News in 1958 when she was 16-years-old at her father’s suggestion.
It was during the summer before she went away to school, and they had a horse named Sox they wanted to sell. Because Wood’s family didn’t have a horse trailer to deliver the horse to the buyer, her father said a local newspaper would be a good way to find a buyer close enough to ride it to its new home.
The first edition, and editions for years after, were a single sheet printed on a mimeograph at the Charlotte Congregational Church. It became a product of the church’s young people with an adult mentor overseeing its publication every two weeks.
When the initial issue of The Charlotte News finally came out, Sox had already been sold — to a man in South Burlington. So, Wood had to ride Sox all the way down Spear Street for delivery, which was a much different experience more than 60 years ago.
Although her initial tenure as editor was brief, ending just months later when fall and school rolled around, Wood returned to the post in 2009 for about three years.
Besides Beth Merritt’s wonderful contributions to the newspaper, Wood said it was important to remember her efforts for other town organizations, like the Charlotte Library and the Charlotte Senior Center.
Library director Margaret Woodruff applauded Merritt’s service to that organization, noting that in 1993 she was one of the founding members of the library’s drive to get a building dedicated to a community library built.
Previously, the community library was part of the Charlotte Central School library, but in 1997 it moved into its present building due to the efforts of Merritt and others.
Merritt is treasurer to the Friends of the Charlotte Library, which raises money for special projects and events.
She has also been important in the history of the Charlotte Senior Center.
Lane Morrison, who succeeded her as president of the senior center’s board, said she is very active, dedicated and at the center almost every day. She is on the senior center’s human resources committee and helped prepare the center’s policies.
Wally Gates, treasurer of the senior center’s board of directors, said he first met Beth Merritt in 2001. The senior center’s building was under construction and supporters had realized the funds they had were insufficient to pay for it.
Having been involved with fundraising for the Charlotte Library, Merritt’s expertise was valued by the senior center.
He thinks it should be apparent that he holds Beth Merritt in high esteem, commending her insight and hard work.
“When I met her, I said to myself, keep your eye on her,” Gates said. “She made a very good first impression.”
That first impression proved to be on point in light of Beth Merritt’s very successful efforts on behalf of the senior center.
And the Charlotte Library.
And The Charlotte News.