A day in the life of a publisher

I’ve been overwhelmed by the support my weekly columns have been getting. I appreciate each note, conversation and declaration of: “Hey aren’t you that guy from the paper? I see your face in there each week.”

A cool thing that has happened is that people have begun to suggest column ideas for me. And a suggestion last week is the impetus of this week’s installment — a day in the life of a publisher. So here goes…

Truth is, I didn’t know what the heck a day in the life of a publisher was until I got here. It’s kind of like training for a sport. You can spend your whole life working up the ranks, practicing, getting your mind and body ready, but nothing can simulate a 99-mile-per-hour fastball bearing down on you with 80,000 eyeballs on you in the stands and thousands of others on TV.

I am the son of a publisher. I followed closely my publishers during the first stages of my career, doing all I could to emulate them so I could someday be like them. I managed projects, made tough decisions, led people, kept up to date on the industry, worked on my interpersonal skills.

While it all helped (I haven’t the slightest idea how people jump into leadership roles in industries they don’t have experience in), none of that could fully prepare me.

I’ve spent much of my life as a father trying to figure out how to make a 24-hour clock magically turn into a 26-hour-variety but somehow I managed to do the opposite. Days go by quick here, and I’ve found that some days I don’t even open my computer or check my phone until well past mid-morning.

That’s because (after reading my morning paper at home), the first thing I do each day is walk around the floor of our building, talking to each employee. It is my goal to talk to each employee every day. And that’s a good thing because it often leads to the discovery of problems, giving me more to do. One day last week, that meant me hopping back into my car and delivering papers. Another day it meant riding over to another town to pick up parts for a press repair. Mornings can bring department meetings, email or phone replies to customers or the dreaded report-writing (honestly, I truly like this part of the job).

My two favorite parts of my job, however, are those which complement my personality. Since I took this role, I have tried to average attending one meeting or meeting with one community leader or group per day. I love the connection part of this job, and really enjoy spreading my vision of The Advertiser-Tribune.

My other favorite part is doing what I am doing right now — writing. I came up as a sports writer, and as I’ve grown into leadership roles, I’ve sadly written less and less. I have challenged myself to write twice every week — both this column and the Saturday “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” section on the Opinions page. The hustle and bustle of starting a new job hasn’t allowed me to settle into one time to write this each week, but it is something that I have vowed to myself to make time for.

As the afternoon wears on, the staff inside the building turns over. The editorial group begins to come in, as with us being a night paper, many of our staff work an evening schedule. I have a 15-to-30-minute meeting daily with our managing editor and our production manager each day, and try to say hi to employees as they filter in. At about dinnertime, our press crew often comes in. A few hours later, it is the mailroom, who organizes the papers, puts inserts into them and gets them ready for delivery, as our carrier force comes in well after midnight.

Aside from Saturday night/Sunday, there are A-T employees working all hours of the day. As the publisher, it means my phone can ring at any time, and it has. Press issues and circulation issues have both awakened me well before the crack of dawn.

Through it all, I make it a point to get out at a decent time so as to give my family its deserved attention at night and on the weekends. And while I am an “always on” guy who carries his phone and email wherever he goes, I do my best to separate myself when with the family.

Some things are only able to be done through doing, and that is what I’m finding with being a publisher. I look forward to coming to work each day, knowing that I will be challenged, frustrated, encouraged and, ultimately, satisfied.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Advertiser-Tribune. He can be reached at jspeer@advertisre-tribune.com.