Just over two years ago, I joined the staff of Fleet Owner. Having spent my entire professional life in newspapers, the world of business-to-business media frightened me just a bit. A few of my “traditional” journalist friends kidded that I was leaving the world of journalism. Others said I would never work in the “real world” again.
They may be right. For a time, I was editor of a small, community daily newspaper — a plum job for those of us in the field not fortunate enough to work at The New York Times. But a community paper has its drawbacks — mainly the hours. As the editor, I was responsible for everything, from assigning stories and photos to ensuring the paper went out mistake-free each night. The calls the next morning from the local “grammar patrol” were not something to which I looked forward. And there were calls. The biggest drawback, though, was the hours. There was no time off. Community papers traditionally have very little staff, especially editing staff. That meant anytime someone was sick, out on vacation, or an additional project needed to be completed, the person I called upon to get the work done was — me. Because of this, the paper's staff became my family. My wife? Fortunately, she was in the field as well and understood the hours. My blood family, though, paid the price. Thanksgiving? Can't make it. Christmas? Maybe for an hour, what time are you eating? But my newspaper family? My wife always made sure they were properly fed during the holidays.
Then I joined Fleet Owner. “The other side,” friends said. Turns out, they were wrong. In the two-plus years since joining the staff, I've learned so much about trucking. I've learned about axles and suspensions, batteries and brakes, tires and lights. And engines, let's not forget all I've learned about engines. I've probably learned more than I ever cared to about government regulations. Primarily, what I've learned is that a truck is not just a means to moving goods. It's a window into something bigger.
But just as importantly, I've learned about people and what journalism really is. The trade media is not “the other side.” That was reinforced recently as I spent countless hours on a bus traveling from Hagerstown, MD, to Dublin, VA, as part of a trade media tour of Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) facilities. Those hours were spent with other media members as well as officials from VTNA. What I learned was that these people were just like me. Most had started their careers in “traditional” media, but they caught the trucking bug. Like me. It turns out that being in the trade media is no different than working for a newspaper. Sure, the hours are better. The stress of a nightly deadline is absent, but the work remains the same. Deliver information and do it quickly, accurately and with a little analysis mixed in.
I've had the pleasure to meet some wonderful people in the past two years, and not just co-workers, but industry veterans and newbies like myself, public relations folk and executives, and each one has treated me with respect, deservedly so or not. That, ironically, is not something you get a lot of when dealing with your local angry taxpayer.
So to all my friends who told me I was leaving the world of real journalism, I say, nonsense. I didn't leave journalism; I found a family — the trucking industry. Thanks for adopting me.