Jim Amidon — I got a voice mail last Tuesday afternoon from Dean Reynolds, Wabash Class of 1970. Dean is a fairly active alumnus who has returned to campus on many occasions to speak and moderate discussions, and to serve on the advisory board of the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts.
His call had little to do with his status as an alumnus. It said, “Hi, Jim. It’s Dean Reynolds of ABC News in Chicago.”
(Emphasis on ABC News in Chicago.)
I returned the call and he proceeded to ask me some questions about a story printed in Publishers Weekly that hinted the latest (and last) Harry Potter novel was being printed at the RR Donnelley facility in Crawfordsville. He asked if I could confirm it.
I said that I couldn’t absolutely confirm it, but I said, “I know for a fact there’s been a huge increase in rail traffic along the railroad spur that runs on the south edge of the Wabash campus.”
He asked how I knew that.
“Because I live so close to the tracks that my whole house shakes when the trains go by,” which has a fairly frequent occurrence in the last six weeks, particularly between about 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
My daughter, Sam, who is a huge fan of the books and movies, whimsically calls the loud, horn-blowing, window-rattling trains “The Harry Potter Express” — a play on the books’ famed “Hogwarts Express.”
I returned to my office Wednesday and another voice mail from Dean. He was in Crawfordsville, interviewing people over at the Lew Wallace Study. He said he was doing a fun, maybe even silly piece for the national news about the high level of security and secrecy involving the printing of the last of the J.K. Rowling literary phenoms. The interview at the Lew Wallace Study was Dean’s way of suggesting that Crawfordsville is not absent of literary history.
Two hours later I was standing on my front porch near the College (and the railroad tracks) as Dean interviewed me with the help of a three-man production crew. I told him on camera about the frequency of the trains and how everyone in town knows the books are being printed at the local Donnelley facilities, but that nobody who actually works there will say a word about it.
I’m told by my friends who work there that RRD employees are not allowed to take cell phones (cameras) to work. Other folks have told me they’ve seen larger-than-usual numbers of semi-trailers parked in the lot of the North Plant.
Hmm. If only I was a detective…
Dean Reynolds asked me if the fact that Donnelley had the publishing contract was a source of pride. Sure, I said. It’s always a source or pride when a local company that has been around for generations continues to be a trusted industry leader.
I told Dean that all of Stephen King’s top novels were printed locally when King was at the very height of his publishing career, and that Donnelley is an anchor in our community.
After we had concluded our interview, my mind returned to his question about pride. I thought about it for a few minutes when it occurred to me that I was equally proud of Dean Reynolds, Wabash Class of 1970, the network news reporter who spent a decade bringing us the news of the Middle East from Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War.
That would be the same Dean Reynolds, active Wabash alumnus, who made a special pitch to his network to do a story on the town where he spent four years while he was an undergraduate.
So to better answer Dean’s question about pride: Yes, I’m proud Donnelley is publishing the last Harry Potter book — really proud. I only wish the good people running the presses, trimming the sheets, binding the books, and packing the boxes could be publicly credited for their work on what I’m told might be one of the largest selling books this side of the Bible.
But I’m also real proud that an internationally known network news reporter continues to remember his college and the special community in which it exists.