Hickman County Times owner, publisher, editor, writer, photographer, duster in chief Gaye Bencini is a one woman journalism empire. Of course she is too modest to see it that way. Her self effacing humor comes through in her writing. For example, a Facebook apology recently:
"Dear HCHS Class of 2017, I fall to my knees and beg you to make sure all your folks know graduation Friday starts at 7 p.m. Even though it's been announced correctly in the Times for, say, three or four weeks, in this week's edition right over the bar code, a little bigger than a freckle, it says 8 p.m. and that's what your granny will see. If she comes at 8, she will possibly miss you getting your diploma, a once in a lifetime happening, and worse, she will want to stab Mrs. Gaye."
The Hickman County Times is paper of record for Hickman County, Kentucky the state's second smallest county by population. Until a month or so ago, her former paper, the Hickman County Gazette, was the other paper in the county. The Gazette was folded together with two other papers, the Fulton Leader and Hickman Times to become one paper - The Current which covers Fulton and Hickman Counties.
The paper began as a partnership with Brian Risner in 2010. Risner died suddenly soon after the paper started. Gaye, shown below, stuck with the paper building it from the ground up. For a time, Tommy Kimbro partnered with her until 2015.
While she is sole owner of the paper, she says she has help. Lots of it. Her mother vacuums and cleans the toilets (Gaye says she insists on doing it). Tommy Kimbro, a former partner, does the paper route. Jeff Shell writes for the paper regularly. Terry Lynn Davis does some writing and Steve LeMaster writes the sports column. Chase Boaz is sports photographer.
She also carries articles by Tom Hoskins and historical pieces by retired professor Berry Craig. Denise McWhorter, who wrote a local column, is coming back.
We sat down together last week. Actually, I ambushed her at the office under the guise of paying for an ad congratulating graduates. When I stood over her with a recorder in hand, she figured out I wasn't leaving until she talked about herself.
Gaye has been in the newspaper business most of her career. She briefly worked at Garan's clothing factory. She took a hiatus from the news business to serve as deputy county judge during Judge Greg Pruitt's administration. Before her short government gig, she was editor of the Hickman County Gazette.
The Times became paper of record in 2015. Gaye says it helps the bottom line. "KU doing a big rate case helps." The paper has a circulation of around 770. Counter sales add another 180 copies out. The paper is published online. To see the front page tease, go to www.theHCtimes.com. Gaye says that customers like the pdf format because it looks like the paper and they can zero in on stories they like. For those in the zip code area beginning 420, the paper is $25 for 51 issues. For those outside, the price goes up to $30. The online edition is $20.
She couldn't think of a favorite story she has written. She prefers human interest stories to politics, which doesn't excite her passion. She likes to do graduation issues that have lots of pictures of graduates. It's local and positive.
Over the years, the business of putting out a newspaper has changed. Columnists email their stories to her now. She copies and pastes them in the paper. In early days, they brought them to the newspaper office, some handwritten. Putting the paper together meant big layout sheets and waxing in contents. She recalled how fast Jerrald Chandler was pasting in the paper. Chandler is just one of the old friends that have since passed on.
Gaye no longer has to carry the proof to the printer. Now she emails a pdf, saving her time and gas. She can group mail her online customers.
Gaye and Shelton Bencini, her husband, took on management of Iron Banks Inn, an historic bed and breakfast overlooking the Mississippi River in Columbus in January 2017. That may sound like a big change from the newspaper business. There are crossover skills - advertising, marketing, managing time and accounts. Tours of the restored hotel are offered by appointment.
In these days of media bashing, Bencini self bashes on Facebook. Long suffering husband Shelton features prominently in some of her posts. Like this one from May 21, 2017:
"Well that is so frustrating. Shelton put a pair of his work pants in Mothers car at church for her to sew up a long rip in the leg when I am perfectly capable of stapling it with my handy office stapler."
To subscribe to the Times or book a room like the one at right or tour at Iron Banks, email Gaye at gaye@HCTimes.com.