Thursday, April 14, 2011

The boss

Work long enough, and you encounter all kinds of bosses. Chatty bosses, friendly bosses, micromanaging bosses, mean bosses, intelligent bosses, bossy bosses. Often those qualities are combined into one complex person.

I'm losing one of the good ones today.

Steve Jones, sports editor of The Buffalo News, accepted a buyout offer from the company and is departing. He's been at the newspaper for many decades, although I've only known him since we covered the Stallions indoor soccer games together and played softball against each other in a media league 30 years ago.

Being a sports editor sounds like a fun job from the outside, but I'm certain it isn't in this day and age. Newspapers are losing readers and profit margins right now, ramping up the pressure on anyone in a management position.

Steve did his best to isolate the sports staff from those pressures, probably flirting with an ulcer in the process. What's more, he probably sent out more notes of support and praise to his staff in three years than the rest of my bosses sent out in the previous 30 combined.

Along the way, he gave his staff some room to try new ideas out when possible. I've always worked better under the Bill Walsh approach as compared to Vince Lombardi -- cerebral vs. military discipline -- and I think I did some good work under Steve's guidance. I'll bet others would say the same thing.

But it's on a personal level where Steve came through in a big way. Back in the fall of 2008, sports writer Tom Borrelli fell down a flight of stairs and landed on his head, dying about 10 days later. Forgetting the aspect of personal loss for a moment if that's possible, I can't think of a worse tragedy to hit a workplace. Steve was there for Tom's wife, Karen, as often as possible to offer support and to do what he could.

Then about two years later, co-worker Bob Summers essentially dropped dead right after a Saturday night shift. Steve was once again provided comfort where possible.

From a professional point of view, Steve wasn't even allowed replacements for Tom, Karen (she had been a clerk, and moved after Tom's death) and Bob, stretching a thin staff even thinner. Throw in a couple of other deaths, as two ex-staff members passed away, and a serious illness, and you have a rather star-crossed tenure.

Steve deserved a better hand than he was dealt, and here's hoping that he gets it in his days after One News Plaza. Steve probably doesn't have to work any more, but he's young enough to do so if he so chooses.

No matter what he does from this point, I'm hoping that Steve has a long, happy and stress-free time in his life starting tomorrow. He certainly deserves it, just as he deserves to read the words "thank you" from me.

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