Today's Ottumwa Post Column:
Excited About Local News Again
By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Post Columnist
Something about being in the daily news business -- you love it and you hate it all at the same time.
It fills your mind while it breaks your heart. It inspires your soul while it wears your body out.
Writer Douglas Adams, who was creator of the wonderful "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" series, was once quoted as saying, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by."
I've heard that whooshing sound. I've heard it approaching. I've heard it slapping me in the face. And sometimes, I've heard it whooshing by. For more than two decades, I've been hearing that whooshing sound.
But a little over two months ago, the whooshing stopped for me. The sound I heard was more like a crash. And unless you're at a demolition derby or a heavy metal concert, crashing sounds are rarely pleasant.
In my youth, I was taught that if someone does his job -- does every single thing his employer asks of him, and does it well -- his employer will reward him for his good work and loyalty. Once that same person has a good amount of experience under his belt, he will have developed enough expertise that his employer will have no choice but to keep him around.
I realize that is naive in this day and age -- it's a relic from an America gone past. Far too often, in every industry, people who do their jobs well and do everything that is asked of them are delivered a pink slip, given a pat on the back, and shown the door. There's no right or wrong in it, that's just the way it is. The bottom line is more important than the product, and more important than those who create the product.
The news industry is no exception.
In fact, often times in the modern corporate news industry, talent, experience and expertise work against you. The higher-ups see you as a threat because of your talent, and feel the need to put you in your place. Your salary is a little higher than others because of your experience, so you become an easy target when cuts need to be made. And it's embarrassing to the higher-ups when you have more expertise than they do, they don't like to be challenged. They don't like having a pushy "know-it-all" around who makes them look bad.
So I wasn't all that surprised or unhappy when I was shown the door. It's happened to far better people than me, and far better journalists than me. I wasn't the first, and I won't be the last.
Actually, part of me was happy with my new situation. Part of me said, "Thank you, now I can forever be done with this God-forsaken news business that has dominated my life for all these years."
Other opportunities have presented themselves, and I'm confident that other opportunities, outside the news industry, will continue to present themselves.
But then I heard about the Ottumwa Evening Post. I contacted my friend Dan Canny immediately, and he told me that he was about to call me, that very minute.
A daily newspaper in Ottumwa, to compete with the corporate Courier? I wanted to hear about his plans and his vision. So he told me. I knew I had to be a part of it, somehow.
I was excited about news again.
And then Dan told me who he had on board. When I heard that he had gotten Pam Credille as a full-time managing editor, I knew he was serious about doing this right. Then I heard about Walter Scott, Tony Yencsik and Doug Potter -- all people who I had worked with before. All talented experts, among the best at what they do. All local. And all had left the corporate news industry in the same way that I had -- loving what they did, but not necessarily loving who they were doing it for.
And what exactly am I going to contribute, you might ask?
Well, that remains to be seen. I am certainly going to write a weekly column, like this one, for starters. Then, depending on how well that goes -- and how things fall into place in the rest of my world -- maybe more. A lot might depend on how quickly the readers in the area embrace The Ottumwa Post.
In the meantime, I just want to be a little part of something that I know is going to be great.
And maybe, just maybe, I will hear that whooshing sound again.
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