Twelve years ago this month, I showed up on The Ottawa Herald’s doorstep for the first time.
My wife and I were moving back to Kansas from Texas, and The Herald had posted a job opportunity I couldn’t pass up: a newsroom paginator position (that’s the person who physically builds the news pages for each edition).
After what felt like a successful interview, the newspaper’s leadership wasn’t yet ready to hire.
I showed up again a couple weeks later, and insisted on a second interview.
Then a third.
Ultimately, my persistence paid off, thus beginning a nearly 12-year career at The Herald that saw me move from one of the lowliest gigs in the newsroom to the editor/publisher’s office, where I’ve learned more about news gathering, marketing and generating revenue than I ever would’ve imagined.
That journey ends later this month, as I prepare to take on a new challenge and job outside the Franklin County community.
Come August, I’ll be helping lead the team at Startland News in Kansas City, alongside Herald alumnus Bobby Burch. (Burch, 2012-2013, you might recall, was a member of one this paper’s most talented and — ahem! — heralded news dream teams, which also included Abby Eckel, now a social media manager at DEG Digital, and Doug Carder, who has been leading our news operation here in Ottawa for the past year and a half.)
The new position in Kansas City is an exciting opportunity, both personally and professionally for me, but obviously comes with mixed emotions as I’ll be saying goodbye to a number of outstanding colleagues, community partners and friends here. These are people who not only welcomed me at The Herald and in Ottawa, but offered the right amounts of patience and understanding through the years to keep me sane and afloat.
Any success that we achieved during my time at this newspaper was a group effort. (We didn’t win six consecutive sweepstakes awards from the Kansas Press Association because of the work of any singular individual.) And the public’s ongoing support of fair and honest journalism has kept us going through a laundry list of local and industry changes and challenges.
It hasn’t been easy. We’ve made mistakes. Although Jeanny Sharp, former Herald editor and publisher, years ago teased me as “Mr. Perfect” because of my heavy-handed red editing pen, I’m not immune. (A botched headline about “unthawing pipes” comes to mind as one that rightfully garnered ridicule.)
I’m fortunate readers, advertisers, Sharp and the good folks at Harris Enterprises and GateHouse Media stuck with me.
My pending departure obviously means a change in leadership ahead, but regardless of whomever succeeds me, The Herald and my colleagues will continue undaunted with the support of our committed community backers and business partners.
After 12 years, I’ll be joining you, the readers.
I’m excited to see what our news and marketing staffs do next.
Tommy Felts is Herald editor and publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org