Give us some details about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you worked in the newspaper industry? Where did you get your start?
I am a San Antonio native, who obtained my bachelor's degree from what was at the time East Texas State University. I have worked in the newspaper business for more than 32 years. I started my career fresh out of college at the San Antonio Light, in my hometown. I started out as a night police reporter and worked my way up through the ranks, covering beats at the county courthouse and City Hall. I even did a stint as a "rewrite man" before going on to serve as an assistant city editor and ultimately the newspaper's Sunday/special projects editor. The paper closed in 1993 and I was appointed editor of the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen. I went on to take on my first publisher's job in 1997 at the Porterville Recorder, a small, six days-a-week paper in California's San Joaquin Valley. After four years there I was promoted to a position at the corporate headquarters in Orange County, California, where I served as director of training and special projects for the community newspaper division. When the publisher's job opened up in Odessa back in 2003 I finally got to come "back home" to Texas. Never felt so lonesome as the time I had to surrender my Texas drivers license and obtain a California license when I moved out to the West Coast. I currently serve as publisher for the Odessa American and a regional vice president for AIM Media Texas LLC, which purchased the paper a few years back. I absolutely love it.
Tell us about your community and the life of a publisher. What's it like to work at the Odessa American?
Living and helping run a community paper in Odessa is about as fun and challenging as it gets. The region is going through its biggest oil boom ever and the hyper-growth experienced here presents incredible challenges and opportunities. It's hard to hire staff since our area has a labor deficit, but all of this growth means nothing but upside potential for us to grow this newspaper's audience and revenues. I see my role as publisher as more than just the "head bean counter." I consider myself the face of my newspaper in the community we serve and am very involved in many aspects of Odessa, ranging from serving on various boards to serving as current president of one of the local Rotary Clubs. I think it helps me in my job as publisher and helps the community see that this newspaper is engaged in Odessa life.
At the TPA Newspaper Leadership Retreat in June, you led a discussion, "Oil & Gas Boom Challenges." Have any new challenges popped up?
Well, we're still trying to keep staff and hire more, which is pretty hard to do in a climate of overcooked wages and housing that is scarce and some of the most expensive anywhere. Our challenge of trying to maintain delivery to some of our more outlying communities continues, as does trying to gain subscribers in the multitude of apartment complexes popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. But we have been able to use our new e-edition product to attract more of those types of readers. It is helping us overcome delivery issues.
What has been the best moment of your newspaper career so far?
That's hard to say. I have wonderful memories of my reporting/editing days in San Antonio, during which I got to do fun things like covering a hurricane, as well as presidential and papal visits. But I'd have to say that overall, most of my days helping publish a community newspaper are peppered with little "best moments." Working with a lean, hardworking staff that always seems to do an amazing job keeping our community informed and engaged. Getting to work with them every day in thinking up new and fun ways to skin the proverbial cat. And running into people at the grocery store, etc. who tell me just how much they love their Odessa American. Or even hearing from the irate reader who didn't receive their morning paper, because they "can't start their day without it!" I hate that they were missed by a carrier or some circumstance -— but it sure is living, hollerin' proof that we are still needed and loved! Other "best moments" include the times I get to get together with my colleagues from other newspapers -- big and small -- through my association with TPA. It's not only quality time I get to spend with wonderful friends. They also help me be a better publisher and, in turn, help me help my staff produce a better newspaper for our customers.
What do you think the future holds for newspapers?
I don't care what any of the naysayers claim, I'm bullish on our future. We're not going away. We're only figuring out more and more how to successfully diversify in what we do better than anyone else: explore the daily lives of our communities, compile and distill that information and then share it with the rest of the folks who live in our communities. We give them a front-row seat to life in ways no one else can or will.