Friday, January 28, 2022
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Fort Worth

Robert Francis: Sometimes lost, sometimes found … an update

🕐 4 min read

Columnist’s note: I wrote this as the Fort Worth Business Press celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018 – a column recalling my early days at the BP, years before I became the paper’s editor. Now I’m heading out for a new venture and you’ll probably see me turn up from time to time. Meanwhile, with some minor updating, the column still holds true.


I was lost. Seriously, deliriously lost. Worse. I was in my own city, my own town, even my own area, the south side of Fort Worth. I have driven in San Francisco, LA and even the wacky streets of London with a stick shift (try that if you ever want to fry your brain).

I drove my little Honda waggyvan up and down South Hulen Street looking for my meeting. It was December 2002 and I was meeting with an editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. I was a freelancer at the time, working for a variety of magazines and websites, none of which covered or cared about Fort Worth. And that was my goal. I wanted to write something about my city.

I covered stories in New York, San Francisco, London and other far-flung locales, but rarely anything about my hometown. So in answering an ad on Monster.com looking for business writers for the Fort Worth Business Press, I found myself … lost.

Turns out, despite all my years of living in Fort Worth, I didn’t know the difference between South Hulen Street and Hulen Street. If they had told me the place I was looking for was near where a former mentor of mine, Gordon Johnston, a great writer and artist, used to live, I would have known that.

In my own town I was an “It’s down by that place where that grocery store used to be and next to the place that serves the chicken-fried steak with the real peppery gravy” kind of guy.

After pulling into someone’s driveway on South Hulen, I found my way, in the days before GPS, to 3509 Hulen St. and the then-office of the Fort Worth Business Press. Though they didn’t pay freelancers much, I took a few story assignments. Truthfully, I figured I was just biding my time until I would have to wave a tearful goodbye to journalism, find some other means of employment and be bored out of my friggin’ mind.

So began my sojourn with the Fort Worth Business Press, first as a freelancer, then full time. At some point, I was working part-time for the Business Press, teaching two classes at then-Tarrant County Junior College and rehabbing a house. Ah, youth.

At the Business Press, I immediately took notice of one fact, something that still infuses me with the desire to get up and do this job each day: People read the Business Press. I felt that right off. Along the way, I had a few little scoops here and there – thank you several banks and Meacham Field! – and as I went around town, readers and even a few competitors noticed.

Getting lost never felt so good. For a brief time I went back to a full-time job with a computer magazine, traveling the country, making decent scratch and learning about some of the coolest technology in the world. That sojourn did give me one insight I never forgot about: the power of the web. I got a great scoop – Dell was about to use another chipmaker besides Intel. It went worldwide in literally seconds. I was getting questions from people in Germany, India, Singapore and places I’d never heard of. I had never seen anything like it. It made me realize there was a new tool here that could make a difference.

But you know what? I missed the Business Press. When the computer magazine made the inevitable cutback (the era of computer magazines was over, the internet ship had long sailed past them), I was offered another slot at the Business Press.

In those days all we did was post that week’s newspaper on the website and “we” didn’t even do that – our computer tech did. That slowly began to change until, several years ago now – on an unnamed date that should be celebrated – we began posting daily stories. Now it’s a constant stream of news and a week doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t mention our twice-daily newsletters. That scoop on Dell remains in the back of my mind as we interact with readers on an instant basis now.

Even then, through all the changes – and I’ve seen more than a few – the one thing that still impresses me is that people read, and respond to, the Business Press, in print and on the web. We get complaints, sure, but most of the complaints are that we aren’t doing more.


To tell you the truth, I sometimes still feel a bit lost – Fort Worth continues to change (so long Massey’s) – so quickly it can’t be helped. Journalism, too, is changing and that can leave us feeling a bit lost as well.

Postscript:

As I said, I’m heading to a new venture, a great opportunity for someone late in their career. I’ll probably be lost again, but as I said earlier, getting lost never felt so good.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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