Ed Waters, Jr.
Condensed from coverage in The Frederick News-Post, June 28th, 2015
— Frederick News-Post staff writers Marissa Horn, Kelsi Loos, Sylvia Carignan, Patti Borda Mullins, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Paige Jones, Nancy Lavin, Jeremy Arias, Jen Fifield and Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.
A public fixture. A reporter. An old-school gentleman. All words used to describe Ed Waters Jr., who closed a 50-year chapter at the The Frederick News-Post in June 2015.
Born and raised in Frederick, Waters, 67, began working at The News-Post on June 10, 1965, the night after his graduation from Frederick High School.
Waters was hired as a pressman in the production room, working six nights a week, where he helped run and maintain the presses, climbing all over what were then huge, noisy, ink-laden industrial machines necessary for printing the newspaper's editions.
Thirteen months later, Waters received a draft notice. He entered the Marine Corps and served for two years. He served as part of the Naval Investigative Service — taking down incident reports, sweeping the floors and retrieving mail at Cherry Point before being sent to Vietnam in September 1967.
Waters landed at Da Nang Air Base in the middle of monsoon season and became a gofer for the American ground intelligence office at the base. He’d been in the job for about three months, typing meeting notes and dropping off documents for his superiors, when the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a series of attacks now known as the Tet Offensive. When the attack ended, Waters was unharmed. He completed his service as a corporal.
When he returned to Frederick, Waters also returned home to The News-Post to continue working in the production room, this time with the new technology of cold-print machinery, which was quieter and more automated.
Every so often, he would take photos or contribute stories about his vacations for the travel section. He wrote about Loch Ness in Scotland and contributed pieces from a tour of the Soviet Union. That writing eventually landed him a full-time job as a reporter.
Waters arrived home late one night in 1976 from a college tour of the USSR. He called his production supervisor to say he would need another day of vacation because he got in so late. The supervisor said that was no problem, but he should come in wearing a jacket and tie.
He was now a reporter.
Waters liked journalism, he said, because it came easily to him. He listened, observed and was careful to show all sides of a story and not insert himself into it.
“To me, he was the first reporter that I knew that carried a camera — now that's not so unique,” said Myron Randall Jr., the current president of Randall Family LLC, which owns The News-Post.
“People in the community always looked forward to seeing Ed and having him write about them," Randall Jr. added.
Waters has welcomed many new and changed technologies during his 50-year span at The News-Post. He's traded in his typewriter for a computer and film cameras for digital, and he's bid farewell to the fax machine on which he relied for communication in decades gone by.
But the change that affected his day-to-day reporting life the most may well have been the introduction of personal phone lines for each desk of the newsroom in the late 1970s. Before that, reporters shared four phone lines, one of which was designated for the newspaper's Montgomery County desk.
With only three lines open for reporters to make calls and conduct interviews, securing an open line became something of a battle.
"If you really had to make a phone call ... you'd watch the light and go really quick as soon as it was open," Waters said.
Waters said he was never aggressive with sources, preferring a subtler approach that has built him a vast network of contacts.
Waters has two large Rolodexes full of cards, hastily scribbled numbers and other connections he has made over the years.
"If you establish good rapport with people, if they know that you're going to write a good, balanced story, even if it's something that might be negative for them, if they know that you're not going to sensationalize that and that you're going to let them give their side, then I've never really had any trouble getting information," Waters said of his approach to sourcing.
“I always got the sense from Ed that he lived the stories that he told,” Rick Weldon wrote in an email. Weldon is vice president of operations for the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. “He didn't just write about them.”
“His style of journalism wasn't so much in-your-face as it was quiet, consistent, capable and professional,” Weldon wrote. “Hometown newspapers have gained their reputation for dependable sources based on the work of old-school gentleman journalists like Ed Waters.”
Waters has worked under eight different editors, and he has remained a fixture in the newsroom as a reporter.
“It's a very important job, and it's a very important thing to do,” Waters said.
“You really need to think about what you're doing. Keep your mind on it, and write the good story because you want it to reflect [well] on yourself as well as the publication.”