By Tim Timmons
I hung up the phone and shook my head.
The not-so-friendly caller on the other end had just finished roasting my newspaper, my staff and my sorry assumptions. We had made a mistake, and the caller was none too happy.
When I finally could say something beyond “yes ma’am, yes ma’am and yes ma’am,” I asked if we could apologize by extending her subscription.
“Oh I don’t subscribe!” she snorted. “I read it on the Internet.”
For free. Thus the above-mentioned shaking of the head.
Later that day I was whining to an old friend in the business about the call, the seeming demise of the industry and pretty much everything up to and including global warming.
“Who put the ink in your veins?” he asked.
“Try to remember. I know it was long ago, but who put the ink in your veins?”
I thought back to my first real newspaper job. I was a gofer in the sports department at the Lafayette Journal & Courier.
Mostly I took calls and typed in agate. Every once in a great while I might get sent out to cover a game and actually get a byline.
The job was all about long hours (not all of which were on the clock), low pay and a few angry coaches here and there. I loved every minute of it.
“Now, what are you doing today to put ink in some kid’s veins?” my pal asked.
It’s a valid question.
Sometimes it feels like all we do is to try and make up for revenue that was just there a year ago. Days are filled with putting out so many little fires that our new nickname could be Smokey.
Back at the J&C, one of the best lessons I got was when the assistant sports editor told me to have fun with my writing. If you enjoy writing it, there’s a good chance the reader will enjoy reading it.
Bob Scott, Jeff Washburn, Tom Kubat, Bruce Ramey and later Don Jellison and Gail Hamilton – they all had something to do with the transfusion of blood to ink.
Believe me, I get the fact that there are challenges today. We don’t have the same size of staffs we used to. Finding revenue feels harder than finding Republicans and Democrats sharing the same Illinois hotel lobby. Nothing is easy anymore.
My friend’s point is well taken.
Many of us in this business dearly love what we do. The ink, as they say, is flowing through our veins. Someone helped put it there.
We need to pass that along. It may not be the ultimate solution to industry problems, but it’s a step.
How can we celebrate and honor the proud traditions of the Fourth Estate and bring them to life for veterans and rookies alike? What can we do to make the business fun and exciting again?
Who put the ink in your veins? And what are you doing to pass it along?
Tim Timmons is publisher of The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville) and The Times (Noblesville) and president of the HSPA board of directors.