James Etling, MA ’69

What do you do?
James Etling, MA '69
James Etling, MA ’69

I’m now retired. But before I retired I worked in public relations and newspaper printing. After graduation I worked in public relations for five years for Laclede Gas Co (Spire) in St Louis. I was the staff assistant and editor of the monthly employee magazine, Laclede News. I enjoyed my years at Laclede, especially working with my immediate supervisor, Charles Brandes Collard, BJ ’36. While I wrote on a wide variety of topics, his advice was never to forget the personal aspect of the company focusing on the people of Laclede. I was fortunate to win St Louis Industrial Press Association first place awards for best magazine, best layout and best editorial. I left Laclede in 1974 to work in the family printing business, Nordmann Printing Co founded by my grandfather, Ben H. Nordmann in 1937. With 50 employees we printed primarily newspapers, specifically the weekly Suburban Journals, numerous weekly and monthly religious newspapers including the St Louis Review, Lutheran Laymen, and the Jewish Light and the St Louis Journalism Review. We printed the daily St Louis Globe-Democrat. In 1980s, Nordmann Printing was ranked by the St Louis Business Journal in top 10 largest printing companies in St Louis. We printed and mailed newspapers throughout the state of Missouri, across the country and around the world. During the early years I worked primarily in customer relations and sales. After I became an owner, I focused on other issues. After we sold Nordmann Printing, I founded Etling Printing Co, Inc and continued to print many of the publications Nordmann had printed.

How did you get your job?
As a 1969 graduate of the Journalism School, I accepted an offer from Laclede Gas Co. Laclede was looking for an applicant with a graduate degree. Laclede News gave me the opportunity to hone my editing and writing skills in a monthly company magazine format. Going on many photo shoots sparked my lifelong interest in photography. I met many wonderful people at Laclede. In my application for this job, I used Bob Broeg, BJ ’41, as a reference. Mr Broeg was the long-time sports editor of the St Louis Post-Dispatch and member of the St Louis Sports Writers Hall of Fame. He got his start in journalism as a high school student writing sport’s articles for my grandfather’s weekly newspaper in south St Louis.
What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
I learned that attention to detail is paramount for a journalist. Treat all of my sources with respect, no matter their job title. Some tidbit of information from them could lead to much more important information down the road. Many times when I thought an interview was nearing an end, I learned to listen carefully. Important information is about to be shared.
What advice do you have for current students?
You never know where your journalism training is going to take you. Take a diverse course load. Always remember attention to detail. Study hard. But have fun along the way. Travel. Don’t be intimidated. Freedom of the press today is more important than ever.
What is your favorite J-School memory?
Receiving the prestigious Kappa Tau Alpha Honor Society award for academic excellence is my favorite memory. Only the top three students in my class were honored with this award. I have fond memories of my professors especially my thesis advisor, Dr William Howard Taft. He was also a good friend and college roommate of my boss at Laclede Gas Co, Charles Brandes Collard. I enjoyed Friday nights after school across the street at the Heidelberg.
Additional Comments
J-School was a great experience. I enjoyed every moment on campus from the dorm experience to football Saturdays with Coach Dan Devine and the Tigers to my first byline in the Missourian. My father, Howard F. Etling, BJ ’36, and maternal grandfather, Ben H. Nordmann, were great influences on me as the editors and publishers of a weekly community newspaper and printing company owners. My fraternal grandfather, Adolph Etling, was also a great influence on me as president and chairman of Southside National Bank. He began his career as a teller and charter member of the bank in 1907 and died in 1965 as chairman emeritus. These were my guiding lights as I navigated my journalism and printing careers.


Updated: July 30, 2021