“I was two weeks out of high school, 17 years old, when I came to work for the paper. And they had that new piece of equipment, the teletype setter, which nobody knew how to do it, hadn’t done — it was just brand new, so that’s what I did,” Cochran said. “It cut a yellow paper tape with all the little dots on it and that went through the linotype machines, and then it had to be proofread and all that stuff.”
First joining the newspaper at its 23 E. Main St. location in 1952, Cochran remained for three years before departing for Texas with her late husband, Jack. In 1958 she returned to The Daily Tribune News.
In the 56 years that followed, Cochran touched each area of the paper.
“… I helped with bookkeeping. I helped with proofreading. I helped with circulation,” said Cochran, who will retire as the Family & Living editor.
“My grandfather, Milton Fleetwood, hired Elizabeth two weeks out of high school,” said Betty Jane Tilley. “I know she did a lot of typing on a manual typewriter; as my grandfather’s eyesight was failing, he had her type while he dictated his ‘Report to the People.’ He stood over her shoulder and re-read, and I’m sure many times she rewrote.”
Cochran credited Fleetwood with impacting her life.
“Well I’m sure the Fleetwoods made a lot of difference in my life and when I first went to the paper,” she said. “M.L. Fleetwood was a very strong man and he was very opinionated. I mean, he didn’t let anyone take charge over him either. I feel like he made a big impact on me.”
And the self-described “in-charge lady” has seen a lot of changes in her career with The Daily Tribune News, from the location shift from Main Street to South Tennessee Street to the change in printing type.
“… We had linotype operators and the old press that had the web breaks and all that kind of stuff. Sometimes we’d be there and the press crew especially would be there until like 5 o’clock in the morning trying to get a paper out,” Cochran said. “… Then we went from there — of course we were downtown on Main Street at that time — and then they built this building. This is the only thing that’s ever been in this building is the newspaper. Of course it’s been changed drastically since it was built. I still know where everything was at that time.
“… Paper size has changed a lot. It was huge pages. Now they’re smaller. We’d have lines in the paper between the columns like we do now. And then they took those out. … It’s been basically the same because we cover pretty much the same things, but we didn’t have them broken down like we have business and education and things nowadays.”
Although the process has changed, newspapers still have a place, she said.
“I think now with the technology being what it is, a lot of people are reading what they want to read on the Internet, but a lot of people are still telling me they like to hold the paper in their hands,” Cochran said. “So it’s very important to them that we have a newspaper that they can subscribe to, hold in their hands and read.”
Cochran’s contributions are not lost on those who worked with her.
“… She came there as a proofreader, I think, back in the days of hot type. Then we converted to offset, and she has managed to handle all of it and handled it well,” said former Publisher Charles Hurley. “One of her biggest contributions to the newspaper was stability — you could always count on her. She was always there.”
Tilley called Cochran the “pulse of the community news.”
“She was also so congenial to everyone. She’s had the pulse of the community as her life for all these years. She has such great name recall and can very nicely let you know when something can’t be done. She has great ideas for the way to write an idea or article,” she said. “Elizabeth has known every facet of the newspaper from its flatbed printing style on Main Street to the modernization of today’s printing, from the days of community news reporters to electronic media. She knows every person that belongs to every club or organization.”
Cochran said she will miss the people — both colleagues and in the community — the most.
“I feel like it’s my friends, my family, you know, and I’ll miss that the most,” she said. “Of course, I’ve always enjoyed my job and I’ve done everything that could be done around here except run the press, I guess, and even latter years since we moved in here. But I will miss the people … — the people here and the contacts I’ve made outside the paper.”
Between her family — son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Renee, and grandson, Hunter — and her Tabernacle Baptist Church congregation, Cochran said she will spend time working in the yard and helping friends with errands and doctors’ visits.
“I’ll stay busy,” she said.
Hurley said, however, the newspaper icon would never really be gone.
“Personally I appreciate all the wonderful things she did for the newspaper and for the community,” he said. “I wish her well in whatever endeavors she may take on, and no, she’s not totally gone — she’s always going to be around.”