The Saturday Feature in The Herald in Jasper, Indiana, is 40 years old. John Rumbach, former co-publisher and editor of The Herald, is pleased with its longevity and its storied history. The coveted full-time internship program – two six-month internships per year – has been a jewel on many a resumé.
John believes that part of the reason the paper has experienced a slower readership decline than most others is due to the popularity of the Saturday Feature. Its consistently well-told in-depth stories mean a lot to the community because the stories are the community.
The Herald covers Dubois County and surrounding counties in southern Indiana and has been in the Rumbach family for 100 years this month. After 45 years, John retired on Jan. 1, but remains co-president. His son Justin Rumbach is the fourth generation to be publisher and editor.
John explains that the Saturday Feature has been successful due to the high-caliber photographers who produced high-quality storytelling.
“The newspaper is the beginning of the food chain for these photojournalists,” John said. “We train them and send them on. It has been self-perpetuating – once you had that reputation people wanted to keep working for you. We were doing things that other people were not.” John adds, “We set the tone that quality matters and talent follows it.”
Why black and white all these years? Two things:
“It’s simply logistics of the press,” John said. “There is no color on pages 3, 4, and 5. And some stories are just better in black and white. Kind of like the film ‘Roma.’ Color would get in the way of the flow of it. Moments can disappear in color.”
John initiated the process of the Saturday Feature and helped develop it with Alan Petersime, the first full-time staff photographer, in 1979. In a 2008 story in News Photographer magazine, John wrote that it was “born from an idea stolen at a (NPPA) Flying Short Course in 1977” when he saw a presentation about the Claremont, Calif., Courier’s dramatic display of picture stories on its front page.
“Once the culture was established that words and pictures were on equal footing and that we would be committed to storytelling in pictures and words – including in-depth pieces – then it was a matter of letting the talented journalists we were hiring do their thing. Not without occasional course corrections even to this day.”
Justin asked his now-retired dad to pass the torch of editing and layout of the Saturday Feature to chief photographer Sarah Ann Jump. The Herald has one chief photographer, one staff photographer and one six-month intern.
Typically Midwestern, John is humble about his extraordinary success. Asked if News Photographer could do a story about him, he predictably declined.
But many photojournalists had a lot to say about working in Jasper and alongside John. They describe his style perfectly and noted that the lessons learned in Jasper don’t stay in Jasper. And the pictures? They still resonate, too. Scroll down and read their stories.