Why I stayed in newspapers when I was warned to flee.
What I wrote for the staff at the start of my last stint in a dozen years as a publisher.
When I flew to Phoenix the week I became publisher, the first thing people wanted to ask me about was the future. What were my plans? Where were we headed?
To do that, I want to tell you something from the past.
It’s a moment from a decade ago, the moment when I chose to really do this thing — to be a publisher — to do what my mother still thinks is too crazy and stressful, even if she’s really proud.
Because in my first days as a publisher, there was a moment when I was challenged to quit, to walk away. Instead, I decided not to.
I was at a meeting for all the company’s editors and publishers. As the newly minted publisher in Boise, I was full of enthusiasm and idealism. It was months before the recession hit, when we still thought we just had secular challenges to combat, not the seismic cyclical ones that would bring us to our knees — sometimes in prayer.
I was standing with a colleague, also new in her role. With us was another publisher — a legend who had worked his way from being a paperboy for his hometown newspaper to being its publisher. It was a moment to seek wisdom. So I asked him, what advice did he have for the two of us starting out?
He looked me in the eye, drink in his hand, and said, “Get out of this industry while you can. You have a long career ahead of you. Do something else with your talent and your energy.”
This was someone who had spent his whole career as a journalist, a community leader, a businessman helping his hometown navigate decades of change and growth. It was sort of like learning Santa Claus wanted to retire to Vegas and send the elves to job counselors.
And right there, in my new job, I wondered: Should I walk away? Maybe he’s right. Get out before I even start.
Instead, like any journalist would, I asked him a follow-up question: Why? Why would he say this now? Why tell the company’s newest leaders to flee?
I’ll never forget what he told me next.