Arguably the biggest local news this week was generated by a newspaper company. The Kentucky New Era Media Group, which owned this newspaper and others, was sold off to Paxton Media Group, another family-owned paperin’ business headquartered in Paducah.
It ended an era that began in 1881, when the now former owner’s great-great-grandfather become sole owner (the paper began operation in 1869).
It ended an era for me, too. I started work with the company in 2009, stuffing advertisements into the various newspapers.
I wasn’t much of a man, then. I was a college dropout turning in record low GPA numbers and heading absolutely nowhere.
The times I should have been fired are numerous. In the middle of a shift I once drug a detached van bench into the elevator, shut the doors and went to sleep. My supervisor was furious. I was saved by our boss, a secretly kind-hearted man with a rough exterior. It was hard to get fired from that job.
My boss died about a year later. I never knew the pain that gripped his heart, never even suspected it from our interactions. I still think about him a lot. People are complicated, but he was a good man.
I remember a war of personalities with the man who took his job. We didn’t much care for each other, and once he rapped me over the knuckles with an open box cutter. I couldn’t back down or I’d be in for worse, so I calmly cut him right back.
A couple months later, I got promoted. I’m not saying the two things are related, but maybe you should try it.
I moved to the editorial department, helping to edit news articles and design pages. They needed a warm body, and if I didn’t prove to be an abject failure after seven days I’d get to keep the job. Since abject failure was, up until that point, my specialty, I was a bit nervous.
They deemed me capable enough, though again I owe credit to my direct supervisors. Our personalities clashed (I’m seeing a trend), but they showed me the ropes and went to bat for me.
I learned then that leadership isn’t always loud. I try to go to bat for my guys now too. A leader cultivates the people around him, and managers always get the crop they deserve.
When I had the job down, I figured if I was going to be a real journalist I needed to leave the cradle. I took a job in Florida. There, I learned the value of a tight-knit team through starvation. When everyone’s a cutthroat, productivity goes down.
I came back to the New Era. I said for a better title, (editing this paper!) but really because I missed the atmosphere. My old boss was gone, but my new one wasn’t so bad. I’ll never forget the day a long-time editor and Kentucky journalism stalwart said I had written a story well for the first time. On the opposite spectrum, I’ll never forget the time an anonymous complainer told me I definitely used the womens’ restroom. I framed that email and put it on my wall. Thanks, guy.
I have a million memories of that New Era. Most are good. If you take anything from my column today, let it be this: It was never the work itself, but the people who made that company. We survived storms that sank other papers, plugged holes and kept going through what felt like sheer force of will. We did it because we cared, because we gave a damn about each other. My experiences there helped me grow as a person, and I can’t imagine my life without them.
A framed newspaper above my desk from April 1912 reads that the Titanic didn’t sink, it was saved by wireless telegraph. Fake news for over 100 years, at least.
Like the Titanic, our ship was destined to sink. It was always going to end. Everything does, in time.
But then, it was never the ending that mattered. It was how we got there. It was a hell of a ride, and that’s this week’s small victory.
For the record, though, we aren’t done. We aren’t going anywhere, we’re just starting a new journey. If we’re good, and real, real lucky, it’ll be at least half as fun as the last.
The New Era is dead, long live the New Era.
(JESSE JONES is still the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of Paxton Media Group. Email email@example.com or find “Small Victories” on Facebook.)