Four years ago, I first sat in this office and contemplated what great potential the Shawnee News-Star had.
There have been so many Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame members who spent large spans of their careers in this newsroom. The economy here was strong and continues to grow.
There were two higher education institutions in the city, adding to the number of well-educated people. Newspaper readers are smart. Everyone knows that. Two universities meant a better subscriber base.
Plus, Shawnee is closer to my family. And we have our own press.
It seemed like Shawnee and the News-Star had it all and I was getting to lead this team. I had high expectations.
For the most part, those expectations have been realized. We have had a lot of big wins and a few tough losses.
Some have joined the staff who have made us a better team. Others have left who we never wanted to see walk out the door.
All things considered, it has been a good four years. I have been a publisher for about 11 and a half years and I have worked in corporately owned newspapers for 25 years. The main difference is that I am a lot older now. I can still work 20-hour days but it takes a lot more out of me.
The technological advances in the past quarter century have been incredible. We didn't even have email addresses when I started as a reporter. We still built pages with paper that rolled through a waxer and was literally cut from one page and pasted onto another.
My first days in the industry were some of the last before technology turned the world upside down. The News-Star now has a website, our own mobile phone app, and multiple social media pages with thousands of followers on each. Our website had more than 6 million page views in 2018 alone. That wasn't even a futuristic dream 25 years ago.
My entire career has been filled with layoffs, cutbacks and other efforts to keep profit margins at acceptable levels.
We have fewer people in almost every department and we ask them to do more and more. There are no easy jobs now. Publishers don't golf every afternoon anymore. I take about 8 days off a year and I have played more golf out of the state than I have in Shawnee - and we have great courses here. I just have no time.
The publisher role has transitioned from just a leader of the leadership team to a working member of every department.
I have had days where I made sales calls, delivered newspapers to subscribers who had a delivery problem, planned a special press run for a customer, covered a sporting event and mowed the lawn at the office on the same day. I have even spent a night squirting a water bottle onto the press when a water pump went out.
Some days, it is easy to be jealous of publishers who don't have to answer to corporate bosses. We do reports about how many reports we did that day. It can be time-consuming. Corporate leaders also sometimes make decisions with which you don't agree. Having to execute a plan you don't like is no fun. I've had to do it.
But when a huge air conditioner has to be replaced or the press has an expensive problem to repair, those corporate decisions are a lot easier to deal with.
This is a tough job and I will never write a column that discusses how much easier the job is now. Every day, we face more challenges and you have to work a little harder and be a little more creative just to stay on track.
I think that is why it is so rewarding when you reach your goals. When the mountain is steep, reaching the top is a great feeling.
We've had those mountaintop moments.
It takes a great team to get there. Many times, people outside the building have no idea what had to happen to get the paper out.
As a leader, it is equally rewarding to see someone go above and beyond their job responsibilities to make the newspaper better.
I appreciate those employees for the number of times that has happened in my four years here. I appreciate this community for the support it gives the News-Star and our staff.
Some days are harder than others, but I am lucky to have this job in this city. It's been a great four years.
Twenty-five years ago, I could never have predicted where this career would take me or how many things would change. I won't even guess how things will change this year, this decade or the next twenty-five years.