Lessons learned as Advocate#039;s editor

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

I can still remember the morning I came into the Advocate in 2003 and met with the publisher, Dennis Palmer.

What I thought would be a 15-minute meeting has turned into almost two years of deadlines, papers, stories and friendships that I'll remember a lifetime.

I'm now more outspoken than I was that day, and I still think that I didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into.

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I didn't know that our county would be devastated by Hurricane Ivan. I didn't know that Greenville would gain national exposure on network television or that a Wisconsin senator could cause such an uproar.

I didn't know that I would come to care so much about a young boy badly injured in a car accident and that he would polarize the faithful like his battle for life and his untimely death would do. I didn't think in a million years that I would lose my own mother at such a young age.

But it all has happened in two years, as well as so many other things.

I never knew that I would have in essence a love affair with a newspaper, but I have.

Don't get me wrong; there have been days that I could have run screaming from the building, but those times are rare and they are replaced by other times when I can't seem to leave.

Anyone who knows me realizes the quickest way to get on my bad side is to criticize this newspaper or the people who work here.

They work way too hard, harder than you'll ever know, to bring you local news twice a week.

As editor of the Advocate, I have been shocked by people's concern and appalled at others' lack of concern.

There are

people also who don't care if we made the deadline or that we made a mistake along the way. Just this week I put the wrong time on the front for the Greenville High School open house.

I had to call Dr. Kathy Murphy and apologize for it.

However, as the editor, that is my job.

No one's perfect. I'm far from it.

But admitting your imperfection is half the battle.

But then along the way, I have to say that I've taken pride in the paper when I would walk into a restaurant and see someone reading our paper.

Sometimes they would speak; others, they wouldn't.

I've had my share of nasty emails accusing me of covering things up or being in some person or group's back pocket.

I can honestly say I have never taken anything from anyone for how a story was presented or written.

I believe that the words on the page are the truth and that sets us free.

I've had people leave nameless messages using language reserved for thugs and Navy vessels.

There have been times when some subject of a story and I would pass on the sidewalk and they would look the other way.

If they only knew how much that has tickled me, they probably wouldn't have done it.

Others have said they hate our paper, but yet they kept reading.

There have been those who have called to tell me that we misspelled

the word "waste" on page 5A in the third paragraph, or that we used the word "the" before a social organization's name incorrectly. These people have always made me chuckle.

Sometimes the lack of intelligence on the part of some people really frightened

me, but then there are times when I realize I am lacking in areas myself, and that frightens me as well.

One of the biggest things I've learned in the last two years is how to deal with people. I've learned that some are not as smart as me, but also that there are others that are a great deal smarter.

And I've also learned that I am not Superman. I can't fly faster than a speeding bullet and that it takes a team to do it right. And I've been part of an exceptional team for the last two years, and I would not trade that for anything.

In case you haven't heard yet, I've taken a new job in the Atlanta area.

I'll be moving by the month's end to try something new, something different.

I am ready to leave, but I so want to stay.

The decision to leave Greenville Newspapers is a bittersweet one.

I realize now in the waning days of my editorship that I not only love the newspaper, but I have loved the people.

The people who read each edition from cover to cover, the people who applaud us and even the people who criticize us.

And I've learned that the people I work with are like family to me.

These last two years would not have been possible without them.

They have kept the world running around me, and they've kept me running that much faster.

While I've enjoyed the hard news, I've really enjoyed the people stories that we've published. The stories have been about common people who do interesting things or get caught up in some human drama.

I have often said to others that everyone has a story, all you have to do is ask.

I've done my share of asking.

But now all that is over for me.

In essence, I'm ending my journalism career in Alabama in the place where it all began right out of college on July 5, 1996.

I'm retiring to Atlanta, to baseline seats at Turner Field where I hope to come to appreciate the Braves as much as my dear grandmother.

There are so many people I want to thank but I have limited space.

However, I do want to thank Dennis, Tracy, Lea, Lee, Cheryl and the incomparable Susan, Angie, Regina, Kevin Taylor and Kevin Pearcey and other absent friends.

And to you, thank you for reading my stuff.

God bless and keep you all.

I'll see you again hopefully on another day.

My biggest lesson from working here for the last two years?

Well I know now, more than ever, that everything I do, I must always keep hope, love, charity and always my faith.

For now, I'm history.

Jay Thomas is the outgoing managing editor of the Greenville Advocate.

Comments can be emailed to editor@greenvilleadvocate.com or via telephone at 334-382-3111.