The Lake Powell Chronicle hired a new publisher last week. As publisher, Cal Tatum will oversee the newspaper’s vision and growth.
Tatum brings with him a lot of knowledge and experience from his 23 years in the publishing industry. Most of that time has been as a managing editor, but he’s also spent time as a crime reporter and sports editor. This is his first time as a publisher.
The Lake Powell Chronicle is owned by News Media Corp., based out of Illinois, which owns newspapers across America, most of them similar in size to the Lake Powell Chronicle. Tatum most recently worked at the Uinta County Herald, a News Media Corp. publication, in Evanston, Wyoming.
The Chronicle also publishes a travel magazine called Gateway for tourists traveling the Grand Circle. Tatum will be its publisher as well. As publisher of the Chronicle and Gateway magazine Tatum wants the publications to continue a leadership role in the community.
Mike Jensen, News Media corporation Group Publisher, sought out Tatum for the publisher job because Tatum has a long history of increasing ad revenue and circulation at many of the publications where he’s worked before.
“I’m thrilled and excited to have Cal as our new publisher of the Lake Powell Chronicle,” said Jensen. “Cal is a quality newspaperman that will bring much to the table not only for the newspaper, but the community. I’m looking forward to see how he and the staff will take the Chronicle to the next level.”
Tatum grew up in Compton, Calif. and moved to Yuma, Ariz. in his mid-teens. He has family and friends in the state and part of the appeal for taking the position in Page was to be closer to them.
Tatum entered the world of newspaper publishing completely by mistake when he answered an ad for an artist at the Wickenburg Sun. Tatum was an aspiring artist and he thought maybe this could be his big break. When he arrived at the Sun he was informed by the editor that the ad had been a misprint. It was supposed to advertise for a paste-up artist. Big difference.
Back before newspapers and magazines were laid out digitally using PageMaker and InDesign, they were laid out using scissors and glue, and a publication’s paste-up artist was the person who cut out the day’s stories, photos and ads and laid them out on the page.
“[The editor] was kind enough to take me back and show me what he was talking about,” said Tatum. “I was fascinated with what I saw the layout person doing. The part that first fascinated me was the layout and design.”
A short time after that Tatum returned to college and got his degree in graphic arts planning to enter a career doing layout and graphic design upon graduation. And he did, for a short while. His first job out of college was doing page and ad layout at the Ahwtuki Foothills News in Phoenix.
“I did it for less than a year,” he said. “They built a new high school, Mountain Pointe, and their first football game was against my old high school, Yuma High School. I told my editor I was going to the game and he said to take pictures and do a story about it, which I did, and the next thing I knew I was the sports editor.”
A similar thing happened at the next newspaper he worked at.
“I wanted to go back to the art department,” he said, “and I found a little paper in Hilmar, California. But when they found out I’d done some writing at my previous job they made me their managing editor.”
It was during his tenure at that newspaper that Tatum discovered his gift for growing a publication’s circulation.
“We grew that paper a lot while I was there,” he said. “When I started, its circulation was 600. When I left, it was 5,800, and that was in a town of 5,000 people.”
While in California, he started doing freelance photography for a dairy magazine and in short time became the associate editor for Western Dairy Business Magazine, managing editor for Lechero Latino Magazine, which serves dairymen in Central America, and managing editor for California Dairy News. He was the editor of all three magazines at the same time, as they were all owned by the same company, Holstein World International.
He worked for them for six years before being lured away by Bass West Magazine to be their managing editor. It was almost the perfect job, said Tatum
“The job had one major downside,” Tatum said. “I was so busy writing about fishing that I had almost no time left to actually go fishing. It was kind of like being a recovering alcoholic and working as a bartender. Here I was, surrounded by the thing I loved but I was too busy to get out and enjoy doing it myself.”
Tatum is an avid fisherman. When it comes to fishing he likes it all.
One of his favorite days of fishing was catching 40-pound carp until his shoulders ached. He’s also witnessed master fisherman catching steelhead with flyfishing gear.
“The lady who did it told me, `When you can catch a spawning steelhead with on fly gear then you’ve earned your PhD in fishing.’ I want to earn my PhD in fishing.’”
His job at Bass West took him to trade shows all over the west where he talked fishing and rubbed shoulders with bass pros.
In 2006 Tatum returned for a brief stint as managing editor at the Uinta County Herald before he answered the call of the wild and moved to Alaska.
Tatum had always been intrigued by Alaska, he said. Its rugged wildness and its myriad outdoor adventure opportunities really appealed to him, so after three years as editor in Wyoming he took a serious look at Alaska and found a job as a safety trainer for Parke Drilling Co.
He admits that he didn’t expect to enjoy his new job that much; he took it so he could be in Alaska. But he ended up loving the job.
“I loved the interaction I had with those attending the classes and the variety of the classes I taught,” he said. “It was very challenging and no two days were ever alike.”
And, as he had imagined, the outdoor opportunities were amazing.
“I spent most of my days off fishing and wandering through the woods hoping I didn’t get eaten by a bear,” he said. “I went after everything from trophy rainbow trout on the Kenai river, halibut in Prince William sound and salmon on numerous rivers. And the photography opportunities were endless.”
Five years later business was slowing down for Park Drilling and he was laid off. When he returned to the lower 48 he received a call from his old paper, the Uinta County Herald which was looking for a temporary sports reporter. He spent a year there, then News Media Corp. asked him to fill in for the editor at their Pinedale, Wyoming, paper.
When Mike Jensen asked Tatum if he wanted the job as publisher at the Lake Powell Chronicle Tatum says he wasn’t too sure about it at first, but the more he thought about it the more the idea grew on him. He has family in the state and knows quite a few people in Page, most of them fishermen, from his days working at Bass West.
“All the pieces just fell into place for me to take this job,” he said. “I took it as a good sign.”
Tatum says he’s looking forward to jumping in the lake, fishing on both Lake Powell and the Colorado River above Lees Ferry.
“lake Powell’s contrast of the clear water and the red sandstone cliffs is truly spectacular,” he said. “And I’m really looking forward to drifting down the Colorado in my boat catching wild trout.”
Tatum has another passion – photography – that he believes will be well-served in Page.
“I’m looking forward to shooting Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley. Monument Valley is one of my favorite places in the world.”
Tatum is enjoying his return to journalism and the publishing industry.
“It’s really simple but it doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but occasionally you get to do something that makes a positive influence in the community,” he said.
“I also really like the challenge form the business aspect. From growing the paper or magazine and providing for the wants and needs of our readers. In order to do that, we have to communicate with them, learn what they want, then work to provide that.
Tatum hopes to bring some of that passion to the Lake Powell Chronicle, and to the city of Page as an extension. Tatum is encouraged by the potential he sees in Page.
“For any town or city to be successful it needs strong leaders in business, civic organizations, religion and government. It needs people with ideas, vision and goals. I’m impressed with what I see here. I see a truly bright future for Page and l want the Chronicle to play a positive role in that bright future. That’s what keeps that hook in my jaw.”