The View from Writers Roost
Nov 29, 2012 | 1143 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEING A country boy and a journalist (in that order), I’m often amazed when I think about everything I’ve been exposed to — from beans and chili to brandy and cigars — in my 75 years of living.

Growing up “country,” then becoming a journalist, meant eating what Texas farm-and-ranch folks put on their tables, then sampling the “the finer things” newspaper people get to experience in a career that provides exposure to all levels of society.

Most people, I suspect, stick pretty close to the kinds of foods they were fed at home as children and young adults.

Of course, economic and social factors come into play as well. As someone raised in a small town farming-ranching family, I grew up to a pretty stable fare of a meat dish or two at a meal plus two or three vegetables, bread and a choice of a couple of desserts (cake or pie).

We could have iced tea, milk, water or something my mother called “Polly-Pop,” which is an old-fashioned version of Kool-Aid. In our family, kids weren’t “allowed” to drink coffee until late teens, if then. Or unless we had a rare treat of going somewhere with my dad, in which case we might drink fox hunt, campfire coffee, grounds and all.

My bill of fare today has expanded from childhood menus but not as dramatically as one employment period threw me into. During a 2-year span in my 30s, I was exposed to what I considered pretty lavish culinary and beverage “adventures” via a brilliant publisher-entrepreneur.

Immersion into multiple-newspaper publishing and printing catapulted me from a meal beverage of iced tea into a group obsessed with cocktails before meals, wine with a meal and brandy or some “fashionable” after-meal drink. And, naturally, the meals were multi-course.

So, I marveled, that this was a perk of “big-time” publishing.

In that newspaper group, the chief executive officer (hereinafter known as Joe) and his hand-picked executives cut their professional teeth on some national publications, some metropolitan daily newspapers and a couple of large suburban publishing companies.

MUCH OF their business was conducted during 3-hour, 3-martini lunches and, after a busy afternoon at the office, continued at cocktail hour(s) and dinner, at either a public restaurant-bar or at Joe’s home. All of these business cocktail hours/meals, were paid for on the CEO’s expense account. We did talk business almost incessantly during these gatherings. The get-together was an effective tool for solidifying the group as a business team. On rare occasions, we actually entertained a customer or two.

Joe was a gregarious fellow who loved a drink or two or three, plus a good cigar. He was actually, I thought, brilliant. He knew more about publishing, printing and sales than most professionals I’d met. He was a retired military officer and could be mesmerizing (a key to his salesmanship).

However, Joe’s charismatic leadership didn’t immediately translate to big profits. Quite the opposite as the red ink stained everyone on his management team.

Heads rolled and the newspaper and printing operations were reduced to a size deemed more apt to generate profitability. As it turned out, the core newspaper, the mother ship, had the real profit potential, ultimately achieved it and, thus, the desired stability.

I LOVED talking to Joe, although it was rare that I could corner him and spend uninterrupted time picking his brain. He was a well-source of knowledge about publishing in general, but there were two areas in which he was, and remains, a rarely matched source of how-to in photography and in color printing. Joe could write, he could sell and he could design with the best.

Joe moved on to other publishing ventures and, several years later, retired.

Over a 6-decade career in editing and publishing, there are many people from whom I gleaned business knowledge and how to apply in ways to ensure success. Joe was no small contributor to my knowledge, most of it “how-to” but, unfortunately, some I had to label “don’t do.”

In addition to the professional knowledge I gained, I’m also grateful to Joe for teaching me about some of the finer things in life and how to enjoy them.

Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at
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