Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thirty years ago, a new title

On Saturday, April 1, I will observe the 30th anniversary of my promotion to editor of The Wilson Daily Times. I had been managing editor for seven years, and when Roy Taylor retired, he pushed for me to succeed him, rather than bringing in someone from outside.

With that 1987 promotion, I changed desks and earned an actual office with a door that could be closed, instead of a desk in a corner of the wide-open newsroom. My work changed relatively little from what I had done the previous seven years. I wrote editorials, as I had done part-time as M.E., and I hired a city editor to directly supervise reporters, but I still kept close tabs on local news coverage, editing and newsroom standards. I retained supervision of the sports and lifestyle departments.

The next few years were the most satisfying and rewarding of my three-decade career in newspapers. James J. Kilpatrick, the late Richmond editor and columnist, once wrote that being a newspaper editor was the best job in the world. I cannot argue.

At the WDT, we worked hard at giving our readers the best news coverage we could provide. We broke some good stories, and we covered two devastating hurricanes in 1996 and 1999, each of which was a "story of a lifetime." At the same time, we battled the readership and advertising changes that sent the newspaper industry into a near-death spiral. Consultants hired to "fix" the newspaper offered desperate and sometimes contradictory solutions that ultimately failed to repel the societal and technological trends that wiped out newspapers' long-successful business model.

Desperate to stay afloat, newspaper owners shed employees by the dozens at newspapers across the country, and tens of thousands of newspaper jobs disappeared nationwide. I became one of those statistics after 33 years in the business and 29 years at the same newspaper. I chose not to be bitter about that and to seek a new career rather than mope.

On this anniversary, I prefer to remember the good times, which were many.

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