The instructions from my boss were clear.
A business newspaper is coming to town.
Close the barn door.
You can see how successful I was from what you are reading.
I am now associate editor at the Fort Worth Business Press.
And my boss at the time?
That would be Rich Connor, who now owns the Business Press – for the third time.
In 1988, I was an assistant managing editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where between 1986 and 1991 I served in a variety of roles, including overseeing the morning edition of the newspaper; writing a three-times weekly business column; and supervising Arlington and Northeast Tarrant County news operations.
We didn’t kill the fledgling business newspaper, but it was sure fun trying.
So, this is a kind of inside baseball of that effort, not necessarily in order.
In those days, the Star-Telegram had a robust and award-winning staff of business writers. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was around 15 highly talented people. So, we had a brainstorming session to come up with ideas of what exactly might go into a Business Press-style product.
It was an opportunity to write longer form and more thoughtful articles as the main lead, and good writers jump at the chance to do that.
We came up with a list of around 20 or 30 ideas, all reasonable executable.
One early decision point was how to design something that would have weeklong shelf life rather than become a fish-wrapper at the end of the day.
My idea was to switch to a magazine format, in part because I had edited a group of city magazines in Florida – Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa Bay. But that’s another story for another day.
I went to the book store and bought a copy of every business magazine on the shelves and pinned the covers to a bulletin board in my office. We also collected copies of successful business newspapers from around the nation.
The Star-Telegram had virtually unlimited resources at the time, and we put together an interdisciplinary group that included editorial, advertising, marketing, design and layout, production and circulation.
The first meeting was lengthy – and we met once a week after that briefly to keep everyone up to date on the progress.
Connor came up with some consultants from somewhere who specialized in competition against weekly business newspapers, and they led us to a list of must include features.
One was a list of real estate transactions lists.
Another was a consolidated news report of promotions and hires – with pictures wherever possible – and information like that. We called it WorkFaces – it’s Newsmakers in the Fort Worth Business Press – and I think that is the only concept still in regular use by the Star-Telegram today.
Somewhere in there, we put together a group of business leaders and presented the concept to them and asked them for suggestions of what stories or kinds of stories should be in such a paper.
As I recall, we didn’t hear anything that wasn’t on our original list, but we made sure that one idea from each of those consulted made the first editions of what we decided to call Tarrant Business. We wanted to give them ownership of the product.
We decided on format early; it would be a tabloid-size publication to match the tabloid format of our coming competition.
There were two major fights: Day of the week for publication and concept for the front page of the section, which was to be included in the press run and also was offered for free in newspaper boxes saturating Downtown.
Tuesday was a traditional big advertising day in business sections of newspapers back then because it was the first stock listing day of the week, and advertising wanted Tarrant Business in the Tuesday edition.
I argued that including what was in essence daily news that aged out at the end of the day killed the shelf life of the publication.
I won that argument. We published on Monday.
I wanted a magazine style front page. I lost that argument.
We also had an advantage that the competition published on Friday and we on Monday, so we worked hard to match anything that the other paper had in print.
We worked out a sponsorship with KERA where we did a weekly radio report called News of Tarrant Business. I did those for a while, calling on my previous experience in broadcasting.
And, we stopped halfway through the project to print a dummy newspaper that the advertising representatives could show to prospective customers.
It was, perhaps, one of the most fun projects I ever directed at the Star-Telegram
And in all happened in 30 days, start to finish.
The Business Press-survived and Tarrant Business did not, for a lot of reasons including corporate ownership of the Star-Telegram.
And here I am, a failure at retirement, helping run the paper I hoped wouldn’t make it for more than a year or two.
But it survived, and it is still relevant and maybe more so because the Business Press is locally owned and operated and in touch with the community.
We work at it.