One year in, news briefs still better than legal briefs
One year ago on this date, I mothballed the suits, boxed up the law books and retired the briefcase. I was off to be a newspaperman. We closed on our acquisition of The Daily Sentinel on August 1, 2009. A day earlier, I walked away from my law firm. It was the best career decision I ever made.
Though I have enormous respect for our third branch of government — and for attorneys generally — being a newspaper publisher in Grand Junction, Colo., is a good gig. And as difficult as it was to leave friends and family, Kansas City is now just a humid place far in the rear view mirror.
Admittedly, it’s been hard to watch my new community wrestle with an economy that literally slipped off a shelf 20 months ago and has continued to slide. It’s hard to watch unemployment numbers hover around 10 percent and a residential housing market that continues to crater. We at The Daily Sentinel have taken our lumps, too. Community newspapers are, to some degree, the canaries in the coal mine of the local economy. Because newspapers are closely tied to retail, we go horizontal on the cage floor when retail starts gasping.
But there are signs of life. Sales tax revenues for the city exceeded last year’s figures for the first time this June. Mesa State College continues to grow and impress. Fram is poised to develop a new natural gas field on the western flange of the Grand Mesa as the nation begins to embrace the benefits of natural gas. Classified advertising is perking up in jobs and real estate. Cabela’s opening brought some excitement — and jobs — to the area. College football season is just around the corner.
Even without these positive cues, the Sentinel is on solid ground. I still high-five my brother (and bow to my dad) over our decision to acquire the company. After all, it landed me here, but it also remains a solid investment even in this miserable economy.
So what have I learned in year one as a newspaperman?
✓ Take every telephone call regardless of how irate the caller. Most folks just want to be heard by someone who cares.
✓ Respond to every letter that does not include profanity or appear to be written by someone wearing tin foil on his head to block the alien messages.
✓ Celebrate victories. Acknowledge mistakes.
✓ Find a way to get Sarah Palin in every edition of the newspaper. Love her or hate her, everyone is tantalized. (Sarah, if you are reading this, where have you been? Call me. Really.)
✓ If you can’t verify it independently, don’t run it.
✓ Watch the comments on the website. They’re an unmanageable risk.
✓ Trust the people around you. Most of them are smarter than you are.
✓ Take some time to soak up the outdoor opportunities. (Arguably, I have over-stepped here, having dislocated both shoulders in the last five months whilst “soaking up” the outdoors. I’m dumber even than I look.)
✓ Keep a close eye on overtime hours. They have a way of silently creeping up.
✓ Treat technology as any other capital investment. It might beep and whistle and look cool, but unless it benefits the bottom line, it’s needless.
✓ Change comics at your extreme peril.
✓ Thank your advertisers and subscribers every chance you get.
So, thank you. Thank you for reading The Daily Sentinel. We work hard to collect interesting and useful information that you can’t find elsewhere, present it in a compelling package and deliver it to your front door. We do it every single day of the year — at a fraction of the cost required to collect the information, package it and deliver it.
I’m proud to be a part of this newspaper. I’m proud of the work we do here and I’m proud of the people who do that work.
I thought I might miss the “team” dynamic of the courtroom battles, but I’ll go to war with my Sentinel team any day of the week. And twice on Sundays.