Passing the torch at the Headlight

TRACY NEWSPAPER ICONS — Seth Schmidt and Jim Keul, shown here in front of the Tracy Publishing Co. building last week, have put decades of effort into publishing the Headlight Herald.

Keul family has been part of Tracy newspaper scene since 1946; Schmidts joined partnership in 1985

By Seth Schmidt

Jim Keul has been getting his hands smudged with ink since he was a toddler.
“I was two years old when my parents moved to Tracy. We lived in an apartment above the Headlight for four years, so I was always running down to the newspaper shop and hanging out with the guys and getting in the way.” Keul remembers. “They gave me little jobs to do…sweeping the floors…filling the pop machine. I remember they made me a little (printer’s) apron to wear.”
Jim’s parents—Vic and Marie Keul—moved to Tracy from Iowa in 1946 to run the Headlight Herald with the backing of three silent partners. For the next 29 years, Keul worked virtually seven days a week chronicling everyday life in and around Tracy. He retired from full-time duties in 1975, but continued to take pictures and type short news stories on his manual typewriter until succumbing to cancer in 1987.
Jim, a 1962 Tracy High School grad, returned to Tracy in 1970 to join the newspaper after graduating from St. John’s University, leading an Army medic platoon in Vietnam, and working for a commercial printing operation in California.

By Scott Thoma

For the last 35 years, Seth Schmidt has been the face of the Headlight Herald.
“I’m proud that I’ve been able to continue Tracy’s 140-year newspaper tradition,” said Schmidt, who is stepping away from the newspaper business on April 1. If Tracy newspaper history was represented by a 400-meter race around a track, Schmidt figures that he has run the last 100 meters.
And now Schmidt will hand the ink-stained baton to Per Peterson and Tara Brandl, who are buying the Headlight-Herald from Schmidt and partner Jim Keul.
“Per and Tara are two talented and experienced newspaper people,” said Schmidt. “Jim and I felt that the community would be best served if the Headlight continues to have local ownership and management. They are well qualified to run Tracy’s newspaper.”
Schmidt began his newspaper career with the Cottonwood County Citizen in Windom in August of 1975. Beginning as a sports editor, Schmidt’s first story was covering a Storden-Jeffers football practice led by Coach Gary Gillis.

See this week’s Headlight-Herald fore more on this article.