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Jack’s Story

Members of Mid-America Publishing got the chance to honor longtime publisher Jack Zimmerman of the Sheffield Press during a reception last Wednesday at the Hampton Chronicle.

Zimmerman was the recipient of a special plaque presented recently by the Iowa Newspaper Association in recognition of his 64 years in the profession.


How did it all begin for him in journalism?

“I had a friend who worked for the Press, who wondered if I would be interested in a job. When I applied for the job, I wasn’t exactly honest when I told the owner of the paper that I wanted to be a printer. That’s what got me started,” he said.

Zimmerman worked as an apprentice when he first started out. “I learned how to run the hand-fed press. My main job for a number of years was to run the linotype machine.“

When it came to typing, he said he did most of it by using just two fingers. “I still use that approach today,” he smiled.

“It took a while getting used to working on computers, and that was the next big step in the process,” Zimmerman added.

He became his own boss in 1973. “My boss said he was ready to retire at that time, so I bought the paper then.”

The Sheffield Press was originally located at the other end of the community when he first started out.

“After a fire near that location somewhat damaged the building, we eventually moved to our present spot,” Zimmerman said.

His wife Lidia, worked at a bank in Mason City and Sheffield, before eventually joining him at the newspaper.

Zimmerman’s wife became ill with cancer in 2007.

“About that time, we were in the process of selling the paper to Mid-America Publishing. We then wound up selling the paper. My wife stayed with her job, until finally the cancer got the best of her,” he said.

Zimmerman has enjoyed all facets of working in the journalism profession.

“I’d always had an interest in photography, and was able to buy one of the cameras of Bob Sanders, who was a professional photographer.

“The people of all ages that I’ve met and gotten to know have been by far the most enjoyable part of the job. The many politicians, including Chuck Grassley, have been frequent visitors to our office. I’ve also gotten to know a number of publishers from throughout the area,” he continued.

In addition to community and area residents, Zimmerman has also gotten to touch base with some noted celebrities.

“One moment I will always remember was when Mickey Mouse came through the area on a trip from New York to Los Angeles. Two or three years later, Donald Duck also stopped by,” he said.

The annual RAGBRAI event has also made its way through the area.

“They had more than their fair share of characters in that group,” he said.

“Following sports teams and the success they have enjoyed has also been a great deal of fun. Boys’ and girls’ teams have had great success, and of course it was special to follow basketball player Seth Tuttle during his high school career and during his time at UNI,” Zimmerman added.

Future plans

This true journalism veteran has no immediate plans to slow down.

“I plan to stay around the area,” he said. “My main hobby is old cars, and I’ve completed work on the ones that I own.

“I don’t golf and I don’t boat, so I look forward to keep working, doing the things I do the best and enjoying the people of the area.”