Wick Communications

Carry a marshal’s baton

In Business on 12 Jan 2017 at 2:46 pm
Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

Conrad Fink, courtesy University of Georgia

When I was working as a young journalist in Georgia, the name Conrad Fink was legendary. And not just for those amazing eyebrows. By then, he had been a journalism professor at the University of Georgia for three decades. He was a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and eventually a vice president of the news service. He wrote a dozen books.

One of them was called, “Strategic Newspaper Management” and it was published in 1988. When you think of all that has changed on the media landscape since then (he writes that he expects the boom times for newspapers to continue for decades… whoops), it’s interesting to note what hasn’t changed. Specifically, the need for newspaper managers to plan for the future, to understand that top-down edicts will draw eye rolls, and the hope that young reporters consider the future. The book is sort of dedicated to that last belief. It begins:

Many of Napoleon’s foot soldiers, it is said, carried marshal’s batons in their knapsacks, such was the French leader’s reputation for spotting and promoting talent in the ranks…

I was one of those foot soldiers for a good long time. My marshal’s baton didn’t get much use for another decade or so, but I always (mostly) admired the editors in my life and tried to learn from them. Since then, I’ve learned that there is always stuff that I don’t know about publishing. I’ve tried to learn about budgeting, management, marketing, sales, public speaking, hiring, recruiting, information technology, macro economics and all aspects of the business we are in. I’ve done so partly to be ready for whatever may come next and partly out of pure curiosity. I am no expert on many aspects of our business; but I remain interested in all of it.

One of the great things about the way this business has changed is that now someone doesn’t have to die in order for you to be promoted. In Fink’s day, brilliant historic imagery aside, foot soldiers mostly toiled in the trenches and clawed their way out. Today, particularly in this company, you are likely to be noticed for your hard work, innovation and leadership. I sincerely mean that.

I urge you to consider the rest of the business we are in. You’ll be more useful wherever you are and whatever may come.



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