Thank you to all who made my journey a 'great ride'

July 17, 2011|John League

When I walked through the front door of West Virginia University's student newspaper on a cold, gray January day in 1976, little did I know the journey I was about to set out on.

Since then, I've been in the same room with three U.S. presidents and met scores of U.S. senators, congressmen and governors. I've interviewed an astronaut (Jim Lovell), an Olympic gold medalist (Jean-Claude Killy) and a larger-than-life preacher (Jerry Falwell).

I was able to meet a bunch of media superstars, including all four of my newspaper heroes — Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and Katherine Graham — the finest foreign affairs reporter-newspaper columnist of his generation, Tom Friedman, and the best political reporter of his era, David Broder.

All are a few of the wonderful perks of spending 35 years in the media business.

But that chapter of my life will end today, my last as editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail Co.

What a great ride it's been.

There are many people to thank.

First and foremost, the late Jim Schurz. Jim was longtime editor and publisher of this newspaper, along with being one of the owners of The Herald-Mail's parent company, Schurz Communications Inc.

He was an old school newspaperman, and he hired me to run the newsroom — in 1985 — and then to run the entire newspaper in 1995. Jim Schurz believed in me more than I sometimes believed in myself. Thank God he came into my life, and gave me opportunities I never dreamed of.

His brother, Frank Schurz, SCI's longtime president and board chairman, also provided advice, counsel and support that I could not have gotten elsewhere. I will be forever indebted to both men.

There's a huge difference between being a manager and being a leader. Charles Pittman, SCI's current vice president for publishing, taught me what that was, and freed me to be the leader he knew I could be. Thank you, Charles.

I've worked with hundreds of employees at The Herald-Mail over the years. Most of them were as dedicated and as honest as you'll find in the media business. There are far too many to name. I thank all of them for making me look good all these years.

I also need to recognize my wife, April; daughter, Elizabeth; and son, John Phillip.

Since the age of 30, I've been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The people who have paid the biggest price for that have been my family. I have missed birthdays and sports events, have worked on holidays, and have postponed, canceled and cut short much-anticipated family vacations and gatherings. Their love, encouragement and understanding have been a source of strength, and in many respects, my reason for being.

Finally, a huge salute to the readers of The Herald-Mail.

In the media business, the life's blood of what we do is readers, viewers and listeners.

I've been fortunate to work in a community that still values newspapers and the information that we gather. We've tried to keep our pages open to all facets of our community, to report fairly and accurately, and to correct our errors quickly and in public view.

This newspaper — any newspaper worth its salt, actually — is a bit like a best friend. We sometimes tell you what you don't want to hear, but we're always there when you need us.

It's in that spirit that I've tried to lead this newspaper.

My thanks and gratitude to all of you.

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