I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to be presidential, never having had to adopt a demeanor appropriate to the title before. Now that my name and the word “president” are, in some circles, directly associated, I suppose I should try to act like one.
It’s not like I’m going to make the newspaper staff hum “Hail to the Chief” when I walk into the office, or have Secret Service agents shadowing my movements while referring to me by a code word in their tiny little microphones. (If they did, I wouldn’t mind a code name like “Wordsmith” or “Bestseller,” as in, “Bestseller is moving.”)
Nonetheless, I recently moved into a leadership role that I was anticipating, just not now. As of a week or so ago, I am president of the board of directors of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA), a statewide industry group that represents and provides services for more than 100 weeklies and a few dailies.
I was in line to assume that position later this year, but the current WNPA president — an executive with the Sound Publishing group — was offered and accepted an out-of-state job. I was next in the chain of command. As I noted in my first column for the WNPA’s monthly publication for members (one more thing to write on deadline), “I’m the inevitable result of bylaws, an innocuous enough manner of succession.”
The departing president did an excellent job and I was hoping to have a little time to work up to her level of effectiveness. Whatever transition period I envisioned evaporated almost instantly when our incredibly capable executive director — the person who does the hard, necessary work in such organizations — announced her retirement. That had nothing to do with either the outgoing or incoming WNPA presidents, but it precipitated my first responsibility: help the association find a new executive director, quickly enough that necessary business doesn’t slide in the interim.
With the help of a terrific board of directors — all of them, like me, editors or publishers or top executives at newspapers in Washington state — we expect to fill the opening with another strong leader.
Why does any of that matter to our loyal readers? Because I’m necessarily going to be devoting more time to my new WNPA responsibilities, which means that I may be more distracted and distended than usual — so I ask your forbearance.
For me, involvement in the WNPA is one way to give something back to an industry that has been very good to me. Our business is at a crucial point as it struggles to survive in a dramatically changing media mix. We share a common cause to help ensure that community journalism continues to have an important place in our lives.
So yes, it’s a serious thing. But I can’t help thinking how fun it would be to have an inaugural ball.
Talk to Tara
Tara Dod, a senior at Liberty Bell High School, is an intern at the Methow Valley News through the end of the school year as part of a Learning Through Internships program. She’s in our office a couple of days a week and is working on a project that will benefit both her and the newspaper. Tara is also doing some other reporting and fact-checking for us, so if she calls you for help, it’s the real deal. Thanks for helping her and us.