Thursday, February 02, 2006

Knowing when to let go

I knew this day would come. In mid-2004, when I accepted the job of co-publisher of the company that publishes The News-Review, I knew that in order to do the job well, I’d have to find a new editor for this newspaper. It’s one of four weekly papers published by Times/Review Newspapers — along with The Suffolk Times, The Shelter Island Reporter, and The North Shore Sun.

As co-publisher I’m charged with the oversight and management of the editorial content and production of all four papers, as well as the special publications we put out throughout the year, including the Long Island Wine Press. This involves managing a staff of about 50 and plus an equal number of freelance reporters, columnists and photographers.

My co-publisher, Andrew Olsen, manages the business side of the company: advertising, circulation and finances. That division of labor is a traditional structure at Times/Review, where the separation of editorial and advertising is sacrosanct — as it must be to preserve the quality and integrity of our content.

Essentially, I’ve been working two full-time jobs at Times/Review since July 2004. I knew I’d have to find a new editor to manage the day-to-day affairs of The News-Review, but it’s been so hard to let go. This is my baby. I love this newspaper.

As the mother of two newly teenage girls, I’m facing a similar emotional struggle on the home front. The letting go stuff. It’s oh-so-hard. The girls are going away for the weekend with our church youth group on Friday and I’ve been losing sleep over it for a week. Will the bus get there safely? Will Katie pay attention and not get lost hiking in the woods? Will Courtney have sense enough to put on a jacket in 30-degree weather? Will they do all right tubing down a steep hill without Mom or Dad there to supervise? Will they change their socks when they get wet? What if they get sick?

OK, maybe I’m just a control freak and don’t want to accept that they’re just fine without me. Or maybe this is just normal. At least I’m letting them go — and restraining my husband from going along as a chaperone. A few deep breaths and I’m OK. Really.

“Letting go” of The News-Review is almost as rough. In fact, it’s even harder than I anticipated. When I made the final decision on my successor, I found myself overwhelmed by an odd mixture of excitement, relief and sadness. I’m choosing to focus on the exciting stuff, thank you very much.

I’m putting The News-Review in extremely capable and professional hands. John Stefans’s career in journalism goes back to the Vietnam era when he worked as an Army correspondent in Southeast Asia. He had a long corporate career after that, retiring from Chase Manhattan Bank as senior vice-president for corporate communications. After he “retired” he moved to Riverhead full time and went to work as the editor of The Traveler-Watchman. He resigned from that post in 2002 and came to work for Times/Review as a staff reporter. John left Times/Review to accept a position in Supervisor Phil Cardinale’s administration in 2004 — a job he thought he’d enjoy more than he actually did, and so he left that post last May. He’s been freelancing for Times/Review for a few months now. The job of News-Review editor is a natural and perfect fit.

John knows this town inside and out. He is plugged in here, which for me is one of the most important qualifications for the job. He loves our community and cares deeply about its future. He understands how government works — or doesn’t. He’s intelligent, fair-minded and plain-spoken. He’s not afraid to ask the tough questions and demand answers. His research is thorough, his reporting is accurate and his writing is engaging and lively. And, on top of all that, he’s a genuinely nice guy who’s a pleasure to work with.

If this is starting to sound like a letter of recommendation, I guess that’s because that’s exactly what it is. John will be working for you now, too, because this is, after all, your community newspaper.

While I will now begin to concentrate more fully on my role as co-publisher, I’m not forsaking “my baby” altogether. I’m not going anywhere. I still live in Riverhead and am as invested in its future as ever. I’ll still write this column (assuming the editor wants me.) And I’ll still be overseeing what appears on the pages of this publication every week. You can still reach me at 298-3200 or at with questions, comments and, of course, complaints. And if I’m really lucky, sometimes I’ll even have an opportunity to write a story or two.

With a couple of deep, deep we go.

1 comment:

Celia L. Iannelli said...

Hi Denise - Yikes, letting go - not my strong point either. I congratulate you on making your not so easy decision.
Could any parent not feel a reluctance to part with their child even on a weekend camping trip with their church group? Nope.
I think it's a matter of letting our children out from our sheltering wings and sending them solo that frightens us the most.
I remember when my yourgest Jeff graduated from high school..did he want the big Italian party thing..
oh no - he wanted to back pack through England with a friend. After much ado,he did go, and was far richer for the experience. Of course neither his father or I knew what was in store for us..he is a Federal Agent and is always traveling. I remember when I was in my psycho Mom state - he called and said "guess where my next project is taking me?" I instinctively knew it was not going to be New Jersey. It was the Mojave Desert - my brain at that time ever on guard for catastrophic events switched to the worst case scenario.
Letting go of anything we cherish can be tough but with enough self trust, I believe we can sail through the seasons of our lives and tap into that inner knowing when we listen to our hearts. Somehow my heart knows before my brain has a clue.