Next week will be my first edition as owner of the Lebanon Advertiser, a small, community newspaper in that town near St. Louis. I’m excited, nervous and still scratching my head wondering how this happened.
I mean, I know how it happened. But, still, I’m a bit dumbfounded by the whole thing. That’s because I’m convinced that the former owner could have gotten a better deal for himself from somebody other than me.
It’s refreshing – nay, exhilarating – to find that there are people in this world who do not value money above everything else. The former owner, Harrison Church, did what he thought was right for the community and the long-term success of the newspaper – not what he thought was best for himself. That’s a rarity, but Harry is a rare breed.
The negotiation for the newspaper was more of a vetting process. I knew that there were others who had inquired about buying the paper because a couple of them had discussed it with me before I ever met Harry. Throughout the negotiation, I learned of at least four others who had made inquiries. They knew that Harry was close to retirement. I know that most of them, and probably all of them, have deeper pockets than I do.
I like to think that Harry’s decision to sell the newspaper to me says something about me. But I think it says more about Harry.
He’s an old-school newspaper man whose family owned the publication for 75 years.
I think Harry liked that I had been around awhile and was a “hands-on” editor like him.
More than that, though, I’m not a corporate guy who would hire someone inexperienced to run the newspaper while sucking the revenue out of the community.
Maybe he just likes underdogs. There was no way I was ever going to own my own newspaper if it wasn’t for someone like Harry having faith in me and working with me to achieve that goal. It puts an additional level of responsibility on my shoulders to prove to him that he made the right decision. Maybe that’s what he likes – knowing that I will work harder and appreciate the opportunity more.
Today, a lot of newspapers are run by former advertising directors and businesspeople. Maybe that’s where the smart money is. But I’m from the news side, and so is Harry. For us, content is king and advertising is a necessity. Maybe that’s what appealed to him.
Whatever it was, I’m thankful for the opportunity.
A few people have asked whether I’ll continue to write this column. I might as well. I’ll be running it in my own newspaper, too. I’m amazed at the level of support I’ve had for this venture from readers, friends and Harrison and his wife Harriet. That’s a lot of pressure, folks.
• David Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.