Today is my last day as a publisher of a community newspaper. In all, 38 years. Starting in Wheatland where our son was born and concluding in Sheridan where Susan and I were married almost 40 years ago. There’s a symmetry to that.
In between, newspapers and life experiences in Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado. That’s a boatload of community meetings, championing good causes, being engaged as a “tocsin.” It’s news, marketing, administration, advocacy. Days of listening to irate readers, nights of idly standing by while the press is being repaired. It’s the adrenalin of a good, developing story; the initiative of an enterprise reporting project. The stimulation of developing new media. It’s been a splendid career and life.
And I’ve learned three things that I can do to no one’s absolute satisfaction:
• Cook food on an outdoor grill.
• Pick out a video the whole family can enjoy.
• Publish a community newspaper.
Being a daily community newspaper publisher was the only job I ever wanted. My father was a community publisher as well and early on I became smitten. I remember my first byline, the first ad sold. Every single edition in which my name’s been on the masthead, some 11,000-plus, have been different. The work is demanding and interesting; relevant and purposeful. I never wanted to work in a metro newspaper where you’re often typecast: news or adverting or nowadays, accounting. Metros have too much isolation from readership. I’ve been chewed out in a grocery check-out line and have been in the courthouse four times for printing the news. A community publisher can recommend news coverage, sell advertising, frame an editorial, write a column, buy equipment, review financial statements. Always working closely with others. When something’s off track at big city papers, consultants are called. Lawyers and HR folks throw in their two cents and second guesses. It’s processing rather than publishing. A community publisher works nimbly with the management team therein, fixes it and moves on. Constant is the pressure of a daily deadline, for one thing or another. There’s nothing fake about community newspapering.
Curiosity is a prerequisite of publishers. You have to ask thoughtful, frequently uncomfortable, questions and be desirous of greater understanding. There are only 1,351 daily newspapers in the U.S., and when given an opportunity to publish one, you work hard. It’s a tough profession, consuming and there’s truly never a day off. I loved it and will miss it.
That said, it’s time to let go. I’m losing my fastball. The Press is in good hands going forward. Kristen Czaban will succeed me as publisher. She’s whip-smart, business-savvy, confident and connected locally on a variety of levels. She’s a leader. When looking back on a long career, one easily recalls professional influences. Kristen is one of mine.
Everything that’s good in my life has a genesis through Susan, who was born and raised in Sheridan. I’ve had cancer and a stem cell transplant; survived botched surgeries and depression, and then septic pneumonia and 26 days in an ICU two years ago. When faced with a tough spot, she’s said: “We can do this.” Now comes retirement. We have been blessed with two creative children and two radiant grandchildren. We want to be in their lives more. I lost an aunt last year at 108 who never had a bad day in her life. Upbeat and positive, it’s why she lived so long. My older brother has been in my life always, particularly when in need. We laugh every time we connect. I’ve been blessed with so many good friendships over the years, many from Sheridan, from Wyoming and throughout this marvelous business of newspapers. Challenged by time, age and distance, these bonds will hold fast.
Thank you, Sheridan Press staff.
Thank you, Sheridan.
Thank you, readers.
Life, love and -30-.