Before we get too far down the road of proclaiming Journal Inc. as the second coming of newspaper ownership, let’s not discount The Dolan Company for what it has done for the Mississippi Business Journal.
Having said that, there is no one more excited about the recent happenings in which Tupelo-based Journal Inc. announced it acquired the assets of Mississippi Business Journal from Minnesota-based The Dolan Company. But I will get back to that a little later.
The Dolan factor
It was nearly four years ago when I first talked to Dolan Co. CEO Jim Dolan on the phone.
My mom had just passed away and I was sitting in her living room making funeral arrangements, but the step of interviewing with Mr. Dolan was the last before getting the job as editor of the MBJ.
He gave me an opportunity to chat later, but it was a great chance to think about something else for a moment.
I will never forget that conversation. Mr. Dolan was clear about his expectations of me and his expectations of the future of the MBJ.
“I want to hire you because I don’t want the Mississippi Business Journal to be a fluff paper,” he told me. “Practicing good journalism comes first. This is not about what is good news. It is about reporting business news.”
He went on to say he knew the MBJ staff would ruffle feathers in our first couple of years, but he wanted us to put out a product of which we all could be proud.
That has happened because of good people inside the Dolan Co. like Jim Stasiowski, John Stodder, Chris Thompson and many others. They have all pushed us to be better that we thought we could be.
It all worked out as we have won many awards and were selected as best weekly newspaper by the Mississippi Press Association.
Last spring, at a Dolan editorial summit in New Orleans, Mr. Dolan happened to be getting on an elevator with me. After some small talk, Mr. Dolan said, “Ross, I want you to know you are doing exactly what I wanted you to do from that very first conversation we had on the phone.”
Not quite a year later, we learned that Journal Inc. of Tupelo had an interest in acquiring us.
In the first meeting, one of the things Journal Inc. CEO Clay Foster said was that we were attractive to Journal Inc. because of the good journalism we had practiced in the previous years.
It was more affirmation that we were doing good work and being recognized for it.
While being affiliated with The Dolan Company was a great experience for all of us, this shift of ownership to Journal Inc. is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread.
Having Mississippi roots is important to doing business in Mississippi.
Jim Dolan said as much in his statement about the deal last week.
“We believe the Mississippi Business Journal will be in good hands with a publisher who knows the market and understands the readership,” Dolan said.
So, now we are owned by the oldest and most respected media company in Mississippi with a history of community building and business acumen.
For me, this is a trip back to the future. It was about 18 years ago that I worked for Journal Inc. for six years in two different stints in several different capacities. The people, including Leslie Criss, Joe Rutherford, Lloyd Gray, Clay Foster and dozens of others, helped make me into the person I am today.
In fact, the best thing to happen to me in my time in Tupelo was meeting my beautiful future wife.
So, for me, this transition is the best of all worlds. I expect it is for the Mississippi Business Journal as well as all of its readers.