Frumpfighter

What a difference a year can make

Posted on: March 2, 2009

A year ago in March my husband and I once again had the rug pulled out from under us.  Thinking he was entering a meeting to discuss printing options, my husband, Jeff, was told by his business partners that they had voted him out as publisher of the newspaper he and I created in our spare bedroom in 2005.

Our income was instantly cut in half (there is no severance when you get voted off the island), our stuff in the office was boxed up and the locks were changed. More significantly, we felt we had been betrayed by Jeff’s hometown. Again.

When we moved back to Iowa from Kansas in 2004, we thought we were instantly going to have a happy, peaceful life. I got my job at The Gazette and Jeff was offered the head coaching job of his hometown wrestling team, a post his father held some 35 years earlier. Jeff was substitute teaching, planning on finishing his certification.

Somewhere along the line, Jeff had the idea to start a weekly newspaper to take on the daily he had once worked at which had been stripped of its quality after a large media holding company bought it shortly after we moved to Kansas in 1997. He wanted to bring back quality journalism to his hometown and knew just how to do it.

We secured funding through a business partner and were on our way with a used Mac and a camera. The first issue came out June 1, 2005, and by August, there were more than 2,000 paid subscribers. By all accounts, it was a success story. Except for the revenue. People loved to read it but were somewhat wary to advertise in it. By Christmas, our business partner got fed up and wanted out.

We, rather accidentally, found new partners to buy out his shares and felt relieved it would live to see another day. As the money troubles continued, we were still convinced we could make a go of it. To top off the stress, Jeff was asked to step down from his wrestling coaching job due to a few impatient parents, assistant coaches and relentless fans. 

While subscriptions were steadily increasing, the paper continued to struggle as ad revenues couldn’t keep up with the competing shopper.  Jeff was told he didn’t do enough and didn’t care enough. I was struggling at my job at The Gazette as well. Our son’s special needs took their toll and we quickly realized this wasn’t the dream life we had anticipated.

When Jeff was released from his duties at the paper and our opinions were rendered worthless, we were devastated and had enough.  First the wrestling job, now this. He decided to give up journalism for good and enrolled in a program to get his master’s degree in special education. Because our trip back home wasn’t what we expected, we made plans to move back to Kansas once he finished his degree. He was in contact with the school district down there and I was in contact with my former newspaper company. In May we took a trip to look at houses and continued to plan our move.

Then, in July, something happened to both of us. On the same night, I went to the “Moving Home” performance at Brucemore and he went to a regional softball game. I was touched by the program which documented the epic flood in Cedar Rapids and the determination of the community to recover. He was touched by his softball team’s determination, only to fall one game short of going to state.

When we both got home, we had the same thing on our minds. What if we try to make it work here? Would we really be happier moving our son away from his friends and family? We were disappointed and hurt by a few people here, not everyone. So that night in July we changed our mindset and decided to stay.

Jeff is now the swimming coach and loves it. We have no regrets about completely ending our involvement with our former paper, especially through the recession. And while things at The Gazette have been trying lately with layoffs and reorganization, I’m glad I stuck it out.

Nothing is life is ever guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure in a year we’ll still be here in Iowa and finally peaceful and happy.

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9 Responses to "What a difference a year can make"

Angie, too many people who write about difficult personal things either hold back too much or get too maudlin. You know how to lay it out there, blunt and honest without giving in to self-absorption.

Thanks, Steve. It’s taken quite awhile to tone down the extreme bitterness of this subject. Had I written this a year or even six months ago, it would have been much more harsh. I’ve come to believe that everything happens for a reason.

Angie:

This is another outstanding post. I, too, would have had the same attitude not too long ago. I’ve learned to tone some things down and it has given me much better prospective in my job and my home life. Everything isn’t a major crisis anymore. Steve is right on about your ability to tell it like it is. From reading blogs such as yours, Dave Lee’s, Steve’s and others, I continue to learn and keep my mind open. That would have never been possible even six months ago. Thanks

Thanks, Mike. If I’ve learned anything during the past decade it has been that change is constant and you have to roll with the punches. Working on the attitude, and sometimes anger, is a a continuing process for me.

Great post, Angie. I’m certainly glad you stayed! With as uncertain of times as we’re living in right now, reading your posts has been reassuring that whatever happens, things will work out and that people just have to adapt to the situation. (I’m sure that as everything was being played out, it was a much more stressful time.)

Thanks, Dave. Yes, it was certainly a stressful time. Still can be. We sure have had our share of adapting to situations! But it probably has made us stronger.

[…] word, but I’m out of practice). For reasons that make about as much sense as they did when I was deposed as publisher a year ago, the ownership of the Eagle elected to get rid of the most valuable member of their team […]

[…] world has not been immune to this disruption. A year ago, my husband, Jeff, was relieved of his duties as editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper we created in 2005. It was done for “business […]

[…] my wife, Angie, and I started the Vinton Eagle in 2005 (there’s irony for you), lots and lots of people told us we were crazy. Yet, we succeeded. […]

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