By JEFF JOBE
With February 1, 2018 comes a milestone in my life that I can’t believe is already here: Jobe Publishing, Inc. will be celebrating our 20th year.
A company established to own community newspapers by a young man experienced predominately on the readership side of major metro newspapers. I remember the looks of bewilderment on faces of so many friends when I spoke of the plan – a plan honestly that should have died a quick and easy death.
Looking back over the 20 years, it would be easy to pull together a column highlighting stories where we got it right, introduced industry changes, or beat a drum until a problem was fixed.
As long as there are good men and women in the world there will be room for honesty and honesty is what we strive to provide our readers.
As I began writing this column I learned of the passing of a Butler County friend, Don Baker – or for readers in the region of Butler and Edmonson County, Cousin Don Baker.
“Cuz” as he was known to me and hundreds of others was one of the hardest working men and funny friends anyone in my business could ever know. I can say this because he was the only man in Morgantown that came close to burning the midnight oil more than me back in 1998.
By day he was the appliance repair man and furniture salesman and by night he was the warranty claim processing man. It seems there just weren’t enough hours in the night to process all those claims.
If you know the feeling of working so hard you are too tired to sleep then you know the feeling Cuz and I had when having one of our talks at 4am in his crow’s nest office above his warehouse floor or downstairs in his basement.
As a new guy buying a small-town newspaper and trying to do what was right, I needed friends like Cuz and I feel he appreciated me being his friend as well.
Seems I found myself in a hornets’ nest a few times with politicians and if it weren’t for good men like Cousin Don Baker I couldn’t have made it.
The Cuz could go and do things I couldn’t and he made it clear what I wrote was the truth. He stood with me when some of the community’s most notorious bullies tried to gain favor with the corrupt politicians and threaten, or even assault me.
He wasn’t a big man but The Cuz saw some action in Vietnam as a Marine and the last thing anyone wanted to do was threaten him, his family or his friends.
Like most friends, we ask things of one another but what he asked always had to do with doing what was right. I remember us being mad at each other one time and him pulling all his advertising for a week. It didn’t take long before we realized we both might go out of business without one another. So he came back and stayed until he later retired.
One of my funniest memories of him came after the Morgantown Mayor accused him of killing a tree in front of his building. The mayor said this in an open city council meeting.
I had a blast covering those meetings and this was one of my favorites. After the meeting, I went to my office next door to city hall to write it up and in comes half the city, it seems everyone present in the city council meeting just decided to come over to my office with Cousin Don. He said, “I know you are going to allow me to respond to this aren’t you, Paperman?”
As he began to tell us his thoughts on the accusation he had us all crying with tears of laughter. “How in the world could someone accuse me of such a terrible thing? You know I have been with these trees ever since they were seedlings and watched them grow along with my children.” This was his quote and our newsstands sold out everywhere the next day.
Come Thursday morning the Bowling Green television station was there to get his reaction to the comment; they have always been some of our most loyal readers.
As the Mayor is talking to the reporter and the cameras pointed toward him away from the tree, Cousin Don actually reached over and plucked the last leaf off the tree and smiled at the Mayor. Oh my gosh I couldn’t believe it but the Mayor laughed himself.
The Cuz was a marketing genius and I could sell newspapers so we ran full page advertisements for the next several weeks offering huge savings in honor of the poor tree. He spoke of his love for the tree to anyone who would listen.
As I look back over the 20 years I have served as publisher I find myself missing those early day relationships and with another of those friends passing combined with a need for focus on my own health from a recent accident I am reminded that for us all; my time too shall pass.
I’m not walking the streets of Morgantown, Brownsville, Munfordville, Horse Cave, Glasgow, Edmonton or Tompkinsville as I once did but I assure you those who do are enjoying sharing life with you every bit as much as I did.
If I brought a smile to your face writing about my friend Cousin Don Baker; then he would be proud of me. He often said, “Loosen up Paperman, all you are doing is writing the truth.”
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com