New England Editor for Past 10 Years Chooses New Career Path
Awhile ago, I called a longtime source to ask about a rumor that Fred Bertino was leaving Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos to join an agency startup. “The only person I know with greater inertia than Fred is you, Judy Warner.”
Although I had rarely thought of myself as inert, the word did hit home. Being 10 years in one place, especially covering an industry as ever changing as advertising, is a growing anomaly. That the new movie Dinosaur should open the week I stepped down as editor was not lost on me. Other than journalists, actors and some rock stars, few people stay with a job for as long as I have. So why did I hang around so long? It’s a question many people asked me in recent years … and a question I began to ask myself.
Quite simply, and even after all these years, it was the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction that comes from being out front on a story. But that wasn’t the only reason. There are the players: Where but Washington or Hollywood is there a business dominated by such a forceful, eclectic bunch of mostly likeable personalities?
The two agencies that I have mainly covered over the last decade–Hill, Holliday and Arnold–despite the indomitable natures of their respective leaders, feel as much like individuals to me as either Jack Connors or Ed Eskandarian themselves. The story of their agencies told week-to-week will continue long after I’m gone. As captivated as I have been by the sparring nature of Connors and the steady tenaciousness of Eskandarian, turning over that coverage to newly named Boston bureau chief David Gianatasio will be a relief. Part of me screams: Enough already! I can’t report, much less write, another story about a reorganization of top management at Hill, Holliday or call Eskandarian on another acquisition tip. That’s not to say I’m leaving with nary a backward glance, but I believe I’m leaving at the right time–soul and spirit intact.
Much of the last week has been given over to cleaning my office, sorting through what to take and what to leave behind. Electronic archives mean that most of the paper stuff can surely go–whatever exists on paper can now be recreated. Boxes and boxes of notebooks–all that scribbling, meaningless and indecipherable, really, to anyone but me.
Do I take the videotape of Family Feud featuring the Eskandarian family? The copy of Stavros Cosmopulos’ Book of Lasts, the ATEX users’ manual, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style (copyright 1979) or the frayed copy of Atlas Shrugged that I started rereading one Thursday afternoon when I was supposed to be closing an issue? How about the red boxing gloves from IQ&J emblazoned with the slogan, “Help Clients Win”? From Darby O’Brien in Holyoke, Mass., do I take the stuffed fish or the sand-filled Army surplus bomb?
There’s the new boxed softballs that have gathered dust on a bottom shelf since the Adweek staff gave up the Monday night co-ed softball league. Not to mention the file folder of funny photos with such gems as a beaming Jay Hill and Jack Connors congratulating each other in 1987 on being named Adweek’s New England Agency of the Year.
Or the one of me presenting an Agency of the Year trophy to the principals of Bronner Slosberg Humphrey, a direct marketing agency that none of the traditional ad agencies thought deserving of the distinction. In fact, Eskandarian made the effort to copy the photo then carefully doctor it, replacing Michael Bronner’s head with his own.
Do I pack the issue of Cosmopolitan with that juicy inside story on a former Adweeker’s marriage to an infamous ad man (pseudonymously written to protect the innocent, or prevent the lawsuit).
Aside from the obvious talismans, what I take with me is a decade’s worth of anecdotes and untold stories from the sidelines of what Tom Monahan once called “the rock ‘n’ roll of the business world.” The stories told are in the archives. Anyone with a modem and password can look them up. What I really walk away with is an unyielding belief that I have learned enough covering agency entrepreneurs to become one myself. I have an idea for a content management company and a partner who believes in that idea as much as I do and is willing to take The Leap (a title now topping my list of books to read.)
Since it was founded in 1986, there have been two editors of Adweek’s New England edition, guided by an editor emeritus. Longtime readers will remember the gentle wisdom of Charles Jackson. A mentor and a friend, I e-mailed Charles recently, seeking not his advice, which I had done so many times, but to pass along a forwarding address. Now living in his native Delaware, Charles’ response was what I needed to hear: that it’s good to remake yourself once every 10 years or so.
I couldn’t agree more. K