Whatever the path, make it your own

It was a wonderful early Christmas present a couple weeks ago when Debbie and I watched as our youngest son donned cap and gown and marched across the stage at Idaho State University to receive his associate’s degree in graphic arts.

Preston wore the same cap and gown as his older brother had a couple years ago when he received his bachelor’s degree from ISU. (I described them as the older and younger, rather than first and second, just to avoid any attempt by the two of them to use it as proof for which one is our favorite.)

Preston had spent a couple years on lower campus at ISU trying to find his way, but nothing seemed to click. He looked around and investigated the graphic arts program and when he was lucky enough to be accepted, his attitude toward further education improved 100-fold. He was actually enjoying going to class each day, something he couldn’t say when struggling with a decision on what direction he wanted his life to take.

And just a couple weeks before he graduated he told me he was interested in perhaps coming back to work in the family business if I might be able to find an opening. Another unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Robert has always been sports oriented and after earning his bachelor’s degree in sports administration and finding the job market difficult, decided to continue on toward a master’s degree in hopes a job might be easier to find. He will finish the program in about a year.

At first, Preston was also exploring other options, mainly in the sports and arts areas, but seemed to fall in love with graphic arts.

So I had resigned myself that this family business, although it will continue on after I retire, might change hands and create a new beginning for another family. And it still might.

But both sons came to me and expressed an interest in continuing our legacy by working in the newspaper and printing business. Nothing would make me happier. But if their career paths take them different directions I would still be thrilled. A job is just a job, unless you really like it.

People ask me often how we survive with the increased competition of the internet. And I tell them truthfully that it has taken a toll, but not as much for weekly and smaller newspapers as for the large dailies that depend on all that national advertising. Weekly newspapers continue to offer what the internet cannot, local, factual information that our readers can’t find anywhere else. Many of our readers still admit they love the feel of newsprint in their hands when getting their news. Our advertisers know that.

It would seem to me that advertisers much prefer a product they know is wanted in the home, as opposed to television, for example, where new technology has given viewers hundreds of channel choices, and recording devices so commercials can be skipped entirely.

I have little concern that the newspaper, or printing, business could offer them a satisfying life. They won’t get rich, but they’ll live comfortably. I just want them to enjoy whatever career they pursue.

Preston will be joining our staff, at least on a part time basis to begin with, in the near future. Robert could possibly follow in a year or so. There will be a bit of a learning curve for both, but I have no doubts that if this is the career choice they take they will be good at it.

I remember when I took over the newspapers upon the death of my father more than 30 years ago there were plenty of people who told me I had big shoes to fill and they hoped I was up to the task. But another publisher friend wrote me a note to remind me I wasn’t filling his shoes; I was walking in my own shoes and starting a new path.

That’s a message I want to reinforce with my two sons. Whatever path you take, make it your own.

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