People come and go in the work world, and that's true in the newspaper business. Dramatic change has been the theme for newspapers over the last 20-plus years.
I've have essentially worked within the same newspaper operation since I moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1996, but the people I worked for has shifted from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to Bentonville-based Community Publishers Inc., then back to the Democrat-Gazette when Walter E. Hussman bought the Northwest Arkansas Times and other properties from Community Publishers. Then came the merger with the Morning News and my distant bosses were with Stephens Media in Las Vegas. Eventually, Hussman's company again became the full owner of the operation and we're still in the business of publishing this Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (long may she live).
Anyone averse to change would have been constantly seasick in the choppy seas of newspapering for the last two decades. A lot of colleagues have come and gone. A lot of them are out of the business altogether, having sought out less tempestuous and most likely better-paying work conditions.
A lot of journalists have had great and appreciated influence on me during my years (goodness, this is starting to sound like a goodbye column; it's not, so, dear readers, you're stuck with me for now). I will forever be grateful for Susan Scantlin, my first editor here in Northwest Arkansas, for having the confidence to hire me (and get me out of my four years of temporary insanity in Texas). Susan was a strong force in the Democrat-Gazette's growth to compete in Northwest Arkansas and to serve newspaper readers with some great journalism.
Lisa Thompson, the managing editor over news for this newspaper, used to be my direct editor during my first go-round with the Democrat-Gazette in the late 1990s. She taught me a lot about the reporting, writing and editing processes. She's tough but was always focused on developing a better, more thorough story and sharpening the skills of the reporters around her.
Jeff Jeffus wasn't a journalist, but he's a great newspaperman. He was my publisher for a decade after I became editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times in 2001. He taught me a lot through his strong leadership of the newspaper, his great interest in the community and his support for the newsroom.
Newspapering takes a lot of people, and it's dangerous for me to start listing folks like this because I've had so many great influences. But let's get to the point of my rambling column today.
Sandy Thompson retires from the newspaper this week, having worked in this building on North East Avenue in Fayetteville since she started as chief finance director for the Northwest Arkansas Times in 1983. Through all the change, Sandy has been a constant, calm, steadying force. Her knowledge, professionalism and plain ol' common sense has served several publishers, and readers, extraordinarily well.
As chief financial officer all these years, she hasn't written stories or taken photographs or gone out to sell advertising space to businesses. She hasn't run the press or programmed our web pages. But rest assured, dear reader, that Sandy is as responsible for more than three decades of great, community-serving newspapering in Northwest Arkansas as anyone.
She's also had a deep appreciation for the history of the Northwest Arkansas Times that I have long admired. Last week, she gave me for safekeeping an Associated Press certificate of membership for the Fayetteville Daily Democrat, the Roberta Fulbright-owned predecessor of the Northwest Arkansas Times. It's dated 1932.
Mrs. Fulbright didn't have the good fortune to have Sandy Thompson around way back then, but like everyone with our newspaper today, she would have had the good sense to deeply appreciate Sandy's contributions, personality and charm.
It would be a terrible oversight on my part if I didn't take a moment in print to say this: Thank you, Sandy, and many blessings as you head into a well-deserved retirement.
Commentary on 05/12/2019
Print Headline: In tumultuous times, Thompson a steadying force