Happy birthday, Daily Press & Argus

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the launch of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, the highlight of my career in print journalism.

Creating and breathing life into a new daily newspaper is a one-in-a-million experience, one that I shared with my former co-worker Buddy Moorehouse. There are only a handful of people who’ve ever done what we did, and it’s cool to see what’s grown from the seeds we sowed.

Giving birth to the DPA was exciting work. We expanded the staff, hiring some great journalists to help cover the community. We chose cartoons, designed pages, and figured out how to run a daily copy desk. There were schedules to create, new beats to establish and a staff to bring along. I had no idea how many decisions we’d make, how much research we’d do, how many hours we’d put in, and how much fun it all would be.

I was among the people laid off in April 2009, the “painful” layoffs referred to in a recent DPA story about its 10th anniversary that I read online.

I’ve blogged about getting laid off several times, working through the process of losing a job I loved that also had a high profile in the community.

While the loss of my job stung mightily, I am the better off for it; I know I wouldn’t be running this website and living a writer’s life had I never worked at the paper and never lost my job.

I am grateful, too, for all the great things I got to do at the paper, all the ideas I kicked into action, all the wonderful stories I was able to tell. My career there was a good one, and I look back at our local coverage of 9/11 as the best work the paper ever produced.

Sept. 11 was the first big news story we covered after becoming a daily. I recently found a copy of the Sept. 12 edition, and I leafed through each page, looking at it from a purely journalistic standpoint.

I marveled at the job my small staff did on the most difficult day any of us had ever spent at work. We produced a remarkable number of pages, full of well-written and compelling local stories presented seamlessly with wire copy and photos.

It was a stunning effort, one that rivaled the coverage of the Free Press, Oakland Press, Ann Arbor News and Lansing State Journal, all of which had resources that editors of small papers like me only dreamed of having.

We produced a great edition, one that we worked on into the wee hours of the morning. While we were exhausted when we left the paper at 2 a.m., we knew we had hit a home run.

It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half since I was asked to get off the Daily Press & Argus bus before my intended stop, and not a day goes by that I don’t run into someone who says they miss my weekly column, people I steer, of course, to LivingstonTalk.com. And I always smile at the number of people who think I still work at the paper.

LivingstonTalk.com is my new job. The new and improved website, relaunched a month ago, is setting records for unique visits and page views, and I have great plans for it in the near future.

I wish the Daily Press & Argus a happy birthday and nothing but the best, and I’ve learned one new thing as it celebrates the milestone I helped set into motion: I understand how non-custodial parents feel during the holidays.

The celebrations are so bitter-sweet.

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