Phew. There was my longest-serving employer, Swift Communications, with the new year selling the business after 21 years with them.
And here is my smallest newspaper, Ogden Newspapers, in just five months, selling The Union to Horizon Publications, owner of Marysville-Yuba City’s Appeal-Democrat among many others, this week.
But Ogden keeps the Sierra Sun and so just like that, the Sun isn’t my thing anymore, baby. No worries for you, though. The operation is in good hands with my ex-colleague Rob Galloway. Dare I say better?
Rob, publisher of the South Lake Tahoe Tribune as well as publicity director of the Sun, is an excellent choice. I have known him since we worked together in 2008 during the Great Recession. He’s just the marketing mind and digital expert local media needs the most.
Me? I’m a former Vail editor stretching to publish The Union in Grass Valley and the Sun, which serves long-known ski resorts. I loved this too short stint, feeling like home.
My grandsons were both born at Tahoe Forest Hospital. My dear blood friends Andi and Steve Batie have lived in Truckee for nearly four decades. I started in newspapers in Quincy, not so far away. A lot of my heart stays with the lake, the ski slopes, the trails and the people you tend to meet in the mountain towns, the best.
THE SUN IS RISING
I will miss you, but you won’t miss me. Not even a little. I couldn’t be happier about it.
I inherited responsibility for the Sierra Sun in mid-winter 2018 at a disadvantage. In my eyes, the newspaper was more visitor-oriented than community-oriented, did not thrive commercially, and had just changed its name to Truckee Sun.
Oh man. It was a last gasp, courtesy of closing and I’m sure at least some expected things to go like this when the company gave us the shop.
I’m proud of the business side going from deep red to modest black to more solid black, which is enough to keep going. Yes, we have found ways to make the operation more efficient while focusing on community news.
And I soon learned that “Truckee Sun” just wasn’t going to fly, although the new name certainly caught the eye. I then got to know all sorts of people, none of whom would have bothered my going out in the least. Nothing personal.
First adjustment: we changed the name to Sierra Sun. I think it signaled something important – that we could listen to, at least a little. Some of the most disgruntled readers of us found themselves allies, a nice surprise.
Susan Kokenge, who has seen many editors and phases of the Sun in her more than three decades of selling advertising for the newspaper, has had the most to do with us continuing through this period, however. I had an idea to test. She made it happen long enough to get our feet under us.
The company had set itself a very clear and precise objective: no more commercial losses. I set benchmarks for my bosses. Profitable this month, profitable there, healthy by our new industry standards by then. Miss and we close, it’s as simple as that.
I am not a business genius, as many supervisors and colleagues can attest. What happened was much less my brilliant plans and projections than our folks in Grass Valley and North Lake Tahoe muddling things up in real life.
But I will also be proud of our success. I believe we were written off to some degree before we started. Most newspapers in this position are closing, as have about 2,000 across the country over the past twelve years.
In the absence of COVID, would Swift have considered selling and Ogden buying? Maybe. Black swan events such as pandemics upend everything you thought you knew.
Either way, Rob would be ready to lead this next phase of the Sun’s development right now. So the coincidence works. I was considering this under Swift, Rob and I timed the move to June 1st under Ogden, and so it’s sealed now, if with a bit of a scramble with news editing and background page design then that Grass Valley give up this part.
I’m leaving thrilled with how we’ve managed to turn things around, thrilled with Rob and what I know he brings to this next level, and thrilled that you’re reading a healthier Sierra Sun.
That and the whole experience was great fun. Thanks for that.
Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and now formerly Sierra Sun. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 530-477-4299