You can only imagine how many readers I’ve met during my 15 years as publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
If I learned anything in this job, it’s not to duck conflict. No matter what you do, it will find you anyway.
Besides, if you are going to give me the business, I’d rather get it in person.
One week, I had a reader call me every day with complaints. He disagreed with everything we were doing. Not happy.
On Monday, the call was 15 minutes.
On Tuesday, it was a half-hour.
Wednesday and Thursday, the “chat” went even longer.
I hung in there.
On Friday, we were approaching 90 minutes and after a long week I told the reader who was still going strong that I had enough.
“That’s it,” I said. “You’ve been hammering me all week. I’m convinced that no matter what I say or do, it will never satisfy you. I can’t give you any more of my time.”
Just then I heard the reader’s wife say, “Give me that phone.” (Apparently I was on speaker phone.)
“Yes... Don’t tell me you are the relief pitcher!”
“No. My husband’s routine each morning is to read The Times-Dispatch and complain and complain while I try to eat my breakfast. This week, I needed a break from his ranting so I told him to call you. Thank you so much for the time off. I’ll take it from here.” Click.
Last month, I announced my retirement as president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During my decade and a half in this role, readers, RTD colleagues and I have been through a lot:
- The disruptive rise of digital media and the continual sun setting of a printed newspaper.
- The RTD publishing without fail despite the potentially devastating fire at our Hanover Production Plant that destroyed one of our presses on June 23, 2007 — I, to this day, STILL thank God and Hanover Fire that NOT ONE of our employees was injured.
- The Great Recession of 2008 — boy, that was a lot of fun.
- The surprise sale in 2012 of the RTD and other Media General newspapers to Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway.
- My former longstanding company, Richmond-based Media General, disappearing after years of rapid expansion in the Southeast.
- The startup of a new operating company called BH Media Group based in Omaha.
- And now a one-of-a-kind management arrangement with Lee Enterprises out of Iowa.
(I’d like to meet the futurists who predicted any of this occurring.)
Through it all, you’ve supported us by subscribing, advertising and engaging with us — because you care.
You’ve ensured Richmond’s daily newspaper remains vitally relevant. You also proved that Richmond can be a model of civil, civic conversations about issues of importance through our Public Square initiative. That, in particular, is an achievement I’m very proud of.
You re-create the power of community by attending our many events ranging from RTD Person of the Year — which started as a 40th anniversary celebration of Discover Richmond and has turned into Richmond’s best feel-good program — to A Taste of Richmond, to One Day University, to the emerging Strong Voices initiative, to our Speaker Series and into whatever we dream up.
Also, you are responsible for one of the liveliest Letters to the Editor and Commentary pages in the nation. Many newspapers would love that engagement.
What I’ve discovered after making my retirement decision is that people say the nicest things when you arrive and when you leave — it’s the wide middle you have to maneuver with skill.
The best part of being the RTD publisher has been the people — my talented colleagues who never, never give up, and the many readers who have become friends because of a common bond — The Times-Dispatch’s mission to be indispensable to its community.
I appreciate the opportunity here to tell you — as the ambassadors of an engaged, knowledgeable, in-touch Richmond — that I appreciate serving you and allowing me to complete 15 years as publisher during a tumultuous but rewarding time.
Thanks for having my back.
I leave you with one word: