On to The Next Adventure

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For the past 13 months I have commuted from Longview to Mount Pleasant to publish the Daily Tribune. This small newspaper was on the verge of shutting down before the company I went to work for purchased it. I enjoyed the challenge, which was considerable: turning around the paper financially and editorially, hiring a entire staff, moving the office downtown. I get weary just thinking about all we accomplished in a short period of time.

Now the time has come to find a new challenge, probably here in Longview so that I can enjoy our daughter’s senior year in high school. I enjoyed my time in Mount Pleasant, at least most of it. As with any new endeavor, there were challenges. Essentially, I hired an entire staff, and some positions were filled more than once. I am leaving a strong dedicated team there, and I wish them all well. Together we gave Mount Pleasant, Titus County and the surrounding area the type of community newspaper and website it deserved.

The same sentiment goes for the readers, who really care about their newspaper. I know this because they told me, whether it was complaining about a missed delivery or thanking us for a story we published. For a small town, that was the busiest newspaper office I can recall in terms of phone calls and walk-in traffic. That beats the alternative, which is running a paper in a town where few care about their newspaper.

Newspapers are struggling as an industry, but I learned that one’s best chance of success is taking over a really lousy newspaper in a community with an older population still in the habit of reading a print product. One can actually grow circulation by giving subscribers something worth reading, namely local news. I arrived with the intention of making the front page completely local, every issue. And we did just that, relegating the Associated Press wire stories to the inside, where they belong in a community paper. Wire is important, but a community newspaper’s franchise is local news. With a tiny staff — just me, our managing editor, one reporter, a sportswriter and a layout person — we exclusively ran local stories on the front page during my tenure — and won several awards in the process.

But after increasing circulation by double digits, it reached a plateau. And it is increasingly difficult to convince advertisers that a newspaper is relevant, even though nobody else covers the community to a significant degree. The shift to digital is steady, inexorable and newspapers must change with it — or die. I wish I knew the answer. A lot of people far smarter than me are still trying to figure it out.

I am going to turn 60 next month, a fact that weighs heavily on me as I try to decide how I am going to spend my remaining years. It is possible I will never work for a newspaper again. After more than 40 years in the business, perhaps it is time to try something else. We will see what the future holds. I plan to try to peddle some stories and finish a long-delayed book.

I am grateful to my Beautiful Mystery Companion for her strong support while I made this difficult decision to leave this job. She and our daughter, Abbie, always have my back. I have been blessed with them coming into my life here in middle age. I am equally blessed by my two grown daughters, who remain loyal and strong in their love for their ol’ dad. I may not deserve such affection and support, but I cherish it.

Because I am a nerd, I decided to figure out how many miles I commuted between Mount Pleasant and Longview since June of last year. I have made this 110-mile round trip more than 280 times, racking up more than 31,000 miles. It is also the equivalent of more than 23 days spent behind a steering wheel. I will not miss that aspect.

But I will miss the satisfaction of taking a photo I am pleased with, and laying out an attractive front page, or trying to explain a complicated budget issue to readers. I will miss the many wonderful people I have met from all walks of life.

God bless and as we old ink-stained wretches like to say, see you in the funny papers.

Note: You can continue to read my column at garyborders.com. I will continue to write weekly and publish on Fridays, as long as my brain and fingers keep working. Also, I am on Twitter: @garyborders, or you can follow me on Facebook and read my column via that venue: facebook.com/gary.borders.


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