Saturday I returned to my old stomping grounds in Portland, Indiana.
The road trip about an hour south of Fort Wayne was to see a visit from Jack Ronald, longtime president and publisher of the Graphic Printing Company, which publishes the Jay County daily, The Commercial Review.
I went to pay my respects because Jack was the person who gave me my first chance at journalism, and he’s someone I worked closely with during my four and a half years in Portland , as he was still intimately involved with the newspaper as not just its owner, but also as someone who continued to contribute content and work in its newsroom.
I met Jack in March 2008 when I attended a journalism job fair at Ball State University.
I was in the last semester of my senior year at Purdue and needed to take my job search more seriously if I was going to land anything and not have to move after graduation.
In fact, I discovered the job fair late. Students were supposed to have registered early and submitted their CVs and clips in advance to be included in a binder that was given to all journal participants. The students were also supposed to have set times to meet the pros to talk about open jobs or internships.
But as I found out late, I didn’t do any of that and decided I was just going to crash the event and insert myself wherever I could.
So this Saturday morning, I printed out resumes, printed out copies of my best exhibitor clips, put on something nice, and hauled myself for about two hours to Muncie.
I walked around the room and passed tables whenever it looked like someone was free. I stopped to talk with the guy from Jasper (an old friend of our news adviser at Purdue), someone from Marion, other reporters from other town Indiana newspapers that I recognized.
As the event continued and everyone was buzzing in the room, I noticed a table with a guy sitting alone with no students lined up to chat with him.
So I sat down at The Commercial Review in Portland and met Jack Ronald for the first time.
I passed him my equipment. He asked me what I knew of Portland, to which I replied that I didn’t know because I didn’t even know where he was. It turned out to be about a half hour down the road from Muncie and about an hour south of Fort Wayne.
Something on my resume caught Jack’s eye and it wasn’t something to do with my work as a journalist. That was my major – creative writing.
Indeed, at that time, in March 2008, this girl was in the process of having her first work of fiction published. We chatted a bit about writing fiction and my hopes that one day I’ll write and publish a piece of fantasy.
Unlike many other places I’ve talked to, Jack actually had a job open, not just an internship and not just taking resumes. He needed a new county government reporter to cover the commissioners, county council and others.
Finally, with a bit of luck, I made an impression.
Jack called me to come interview in Portland. I drove from Purdue to Jay County, the town of 6,000 in a rural county of about 21,000. Jay County was unlike any place I had been, growing up in suburban northwest Indiana and then attending Purdue.
We didn’t talk anymore, I interviewed. A few days later, between classes at Purdue, I got a call from Jack. I called him back to Portland while I was at Purdue’s Memorial Mall.
“I’d like to offer you a job,” Jack said.
At the time, I didn’t have any other prospects lined up, so I remember immediately responding:
“I would like to take this job.”
A week after graduating, the day before my birthday on May 19, 2008, I officially began my career in local journalism.
I worked in Portland until the end of 2012, before spending two and a half years in Franklin before arriving here in Kendallville.
On Saturday during the visit, I told Jack’s wife that I would always appreciate him giving me my first opportunity in the newspaper.
Connie told me she knew Jack was proud that I grew up to be the journalist I am today, stuck with the company, and grew up to run my own room. writing.
Jack knew his small town newspaper wasn’t a place most people planned to stay forever. It was an incubator, where he could hire new talent, teach them and help them grow, and then watch them move on to bigger and better things.
He was a second-generation family journalist following in the footsteps of his father, Hugh, who founded Graphic Printing in 1946 and whose weekly newspaper grew to buy out the county Daily Commercial Review.
Jack was editor of The CR for 32 years, pounding the streets of Jay County and delivering important local news to its people for decades.
Jack was to Portland a bit what Terry Housholder is to The News Sun and Kendallville, an old guard reporter who has lived and loved their communities all his life, the kind of people who are now largely disappearing from the industry. .
Jay County lost an institution when Jack died in April. He had mostly retired from the service before his death, but lifelong reporters never leave the company completely. Portland has lost a giant, a part and a protector of its history.
And I lost my first boss, the first guy willing to take a chance on an overconfident kid coming out of college for a job he probably wasn’t ready for.
And 14 years later, I’m still here. Building on the lessons I started learning in Portland, growing, evolving, and still fighting the good fight in ink and paper every day.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Jack, for giving me my chance.
I will carry on your legacy and hopefully continue to make you proud.