All those folks working at the Star-Herald don’t know it yet, but their ship came in Monday.
Their gain (new Star-Herald publisher Greg Awtry) is our loss (former News-Times publisher Greg Awtry).
Greg slipped away last Friday and reported for his Last Excellent Adventure in Scottsbluff and Gering Monday morning.
His 10 years here in York saw this newspaper transition from a mess that got no respect from its own readers to an industry model of how to get hyper-local coverage right. We continue to write the book nationally on how to turn a newspaper website into a source of revenue and we had an actual increase in newspapers delivered to porches last year.
The last two of those are unprecedented in our business.
The one constant through it all? Greg Awtry.
His vision, energy and support for every one of us on the YNT staff was unwavering … every day, every month, every year he reached for innovative new ways to improve your paper’s quality and make sure it’s financial position was one of health.
Both of those were accomplished on Greg’s watch.
As for me, I wandered into Greg’s office nearly 10 years ago when Good Wife Norma and I had decided to return to Nebraska from far northwest Wyoming. Grandkids were appearing here in the flat country and my folks were showing their age.
Greg and I were acquainted when we were both in Cozad – him as the owner of a shoe store and me at the local paper as the oldest cub reporter in the recorded history of the newspaper biz.
I made the leap from grocery store owner/meat cutter/produce guy/floor sweeper in Lexington to a profoundly nervous, fledgling journalist/photographer.
During that time I well remember going along with Greg and some buddies to get photos and info for a story on their duck hunting excursions.
We breakfasted in the blind, they shot a few ducks, I took notes, made photos and cranked out my feature.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Greg was deciding I did this ‘newspaper thing’ semi-decent.
Fast forward to our return to Nebraska years later when I was stunned to learn Greg was now the publisher in York.
Even more unlikely was that he was about to play the hyper-local card. No more stories from AP unless absolutely necessary … only local when possible.
Greg was clever enough to know my background was entirely in weekly papers. Weeklies have local coverage in their DNA and he knew it, therefore I wouldn’t know any other way than all local all the time anyway.
He pushed every button to get me to give York a try. Pulled every string.
He waited until I had said “OK” to spring his little surprise; the job I would fill was managing editor.
To say I was a “non-traditional” prospect grossly understates the case.
But Greg believed enough for both of us and, eventually, I came around to the notion myself.
He and I chuckle once in a while about how the shoe guy and the grocery store guy managed to fool York into believing we knew what we were doing for 10 years. Amazing.
This feels to me like “planets aligned,” “meant to be” and “destiny” kind of stuff.
We will miss Greg, oh my, will we ever! But we know he will have a blast in the Scottsbluff/Gering community.
If he had the urge to climb one final mountain before retirement – and he did – power to him.
He sure earned the right. You’re holding the proof of that right in your hands at this very moment.