A new hat, and a nifty parking space

Today I sit down to fill this space wearing a new hat — that of managing editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.
I appreciate the confidence shown by Publisher Ron Storey in selecting me for this position, and I do not take lightly the responsibilities that go with the new title.
I am also aware that respect is not tossed out like candy at the Callithumpian parade, but instead must be earned — by myself as well as our entire newsroom — from our readers, advertisers and members of the community as a whole. We will do our damndest to earn that respect. Just bear with us a little.
This isn’t my first rodeo, having served a dozen or more years ago as managing editor of a newspaper in Ohio, so I have some sort of perspective about what the job entails. Nonetheless, there were some difficult decisions to be made before climbing into this new chair.
When it was made known, behind closed doors a few months ago, that this position would be opening up, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would throw my name into the proverbial hat.
My decision to do so came down primarily to this: The job comes with a really nifty parking spot.
I’m talking a primo space here; closer to the front door than any other spot in the DDD parking lot. That may not sound like much to you, but it’s a real bonus in my eyes.
Yes, I know, small things amuse small minds, right? But cold weather’s coming, and in the middle of a Hoosier winter the 27 steps I will now be saving on my way to the front door each morning could mean the difference between a long and healthy life or being found in a block of ice on the sidewalk along 2nd Street.
Okay, I do tend to exaggerate sometimes. Sorry about that. What was I saying? Oh yea ... my new title.
Regular readers of the Democrat undoubtedly have noticed a few changes to the newspaper, primarily in the form of increased color on Page 1.
I would venture to bet the phrase “lipstick on a pig” has been uttered — perhaps on more than one occasion — by some of the newspaper’s longtime critics ... er, I mean readers ... as they peruse the new-look Democrat.
Fair enough. I’ll be the first to agree that a little color here and there doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. And, regrettably, some errors have continued to slip through and find their way into print. That’s my fault. The buck does indeed stop here.
We’ll get better. That is my promise to you.

I was trained by the best; thanks Bob

While on the subject of recent changes here at the Democrat, I would like to publicly offer my thanks to Bob Shraluka, who chose to ride off into the sunset on his bicycle and reduce his workload here at the newspaper.
I first heard of Bob Shraluka more than 20 years before our paths eventually would cross. When I started my newspaper career at The Daily Standard in Celina, Ohio, in 1978, Bob had already moved on from his stint there. He had headed back to Decatur to begin a 39-year still as managing editor at the DDD.
While at The Standard, I constantly heard about this Shraluka fellow — always in the most glowing of terms. “Shraluka did this” or “Shraluka said that,” my co-workers would say. The tone in their voices oozed respect.
In 2001 I finally got to meet the man, and to learn that everything I had heard was true. And more.
Bob took me under his wing, without ever knowing he did so. He taught me more about Decatur history than any book ever could have. More importantly, his calming demeanor, I truly believe, gave me a glimpse into a successful style of management I hope will serve me for the rest of my career.
Bob is not in the office every day any more. And I miss him.
I need him to look over my shoulder; to catch my mistakes and to bolster my confidence. And I miss talking hockey with him.
While I’ve taken over Bob’s chair, I have no notion that I have in any way, shape or form replaced him. It’s just life’s natural progression, I guess. In a few years someone else will fill this role.
But for now, I’ve got that great parking space.
My challenge is to hang onto it for a little while.

The writer is the opinion page editor and managing editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat. He may be reached via email at: j@decaturdailydemocrat.com.