Do you remember what you were wearing on this day nine years ago?
I'll never forget.
I was wearing a white shirt and a black tie and black jacket. I looked like Will Smith's partner in an unreleased sequel "Men in Black 4" only I wasn't cool and there weren't any aliens -- at least none that I was able to confirm.
I remember what I was wearing partially because I try to only wear a tie at funerals and awards ceremonies and partly because it was my first day ever as a publisher.
I was an editor at my hometown newspaper in Chickasha, Oklahoma for 14 years. When I finally got a chance to be a publisher, I jumped at it.
The decision wasn't made carefully. While on the road on the way to cover a football scrimmage, I accepted the job and then turned in my two weeks' notice that night.
I'm pretty sure I told my wife we were moving to Kansas that night, too.
I didn't visit the city. I never saw a copy of the newspaper. I knew the life of producing a small town paper in the shadow of a metro daily and I was ready to try my hand as a publisher.
On Labor Day nine years ago, I drove to Augusta, Kan. and got a room at the Augusta Inn. It was spectacular.
The next morning, I tied that tie and headed into the office for the first time ever. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago and in other ways it could have been last week.
In the past nine years I have managed as many as four newspapers at one time. I have closed a newspaper, opened a new newspaper, merged three newspapers into one and finally moved to a newspaper closer to family back in Oklahoma.
In those years, I have seen newspapers saved by incredible acts of generosity. I have seen employees go so far above and beyond normal requirements to make the product as good as it can be.
I have also seen horrible government mismanagement cost a town its newspaper and I have been betrayed by small-minded decision makers and good old boys that aren't really good.
When I was an editor, I first wanted to be a publisher because the job included a lot of golf and fewer hours.
One thing I learned almost immediately is that this kind of management won't work in a newspaper transitioning into the digital age. On my second day in Kansas, our company had a conference call. Due to the recession and its effect on many of our markets, wages and hiring were frozen. I knew what I had to do.
I had to show the staff that there was no job too big or too small for me to do it. No one would work harder than I did and I would never ask anyone to do something that I wouldn't do myself.
All of those things are vital, but the one thing that people have to know when the going gets tough is that their leader cares about them.
You can't fake that. You also can't build a successful team without it.
I have been very fortunate in the past nine years to work with some incredible people. We have been through good times and bad but they have always made my job better and easier.
The biggest blessing I have had is working with great editors at almost every stop. They have made sure the newspaper informed, educated and entertained readers.
I have thanked God many nights for the editors I have worked with. Mostly, I thank God that I never had to manage a young, less tempered version of myself. I'm sure some of the publishers I worked for could tell a few stories.
I wouldn't trade the last nine years with all of the extra gray hairs for anything. I hope to be writing something very similar nine years from today and nine years after that. If I could, it would be a dream come true and a happy life for me.
I won't be wearing that tie today. I don't have a funeral to go to and no one is handing me a plaque. But I'll never forget that first day as a publisher. It was one of the best days of my life -- professionally, if not fashionably.
-- Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.