When the office goes dark, what will it mean?
The office behind my desk always seems to have a light on and an open door.
Joe Butkiewicz, our executive editor, is leaving, or has already left his position and I’m sure his office that overlooks North Main Street will be dark and locked. At some point, a fresh face will sit at the desk and assume the duties.
But the shoes will never be filled.
I say that with all sincerity and respect for the guy who helped bring me back to my first love — newspapering. The guy who knew how to run a newspaper and who knew how important it is for a newspaper to be merged with the community it serves and the people who read it.
“Joe B.,” as he is affectionately known, always had time to talk, even when he didn’t really have the time. Even when he was in the middle of the next crisis. Even when his mind was elsewhere and his time away from his family was getting longer and longer.
Joe B. knew why we needed to have a story about Pete Chaivanik, the disabled man who sold pencils in front of Boscov’s for years and who had been dead for many years. He knew why it was important to put solid news features out front on a Sunday. He knew why we had to be right, before we were first. He knew why a newspaper needs to be a part of the community it serves and why that community needs to know it can rely on its newspaper.
Baby announcements, weddings, anniversaries, high school reunions, special sections, political meetings are all a part of a newspaper’s daily editions. Joe B. valued each and every one. He also beamed when we had a story before our competition — even sometimes before the world. News is constant and ongoing and getting the stories, deciding how to play those stories and reporting them as soon as accurately possible was always his mission.
Our newsroom is filled with characters that would make a casting director for a major television network drool. These guys and gals are just a good script away from being the topic at water coolers in offices everywhere.
But they are very good at what they do and they are good because they have an unbelievable dedication to a business that demands accuracy, thoroughness and diligence.
We are a reflection of Joe B. We go the extra mile because we take great pride in what we do and how we do it. We are most proud when Joe B. compliments us on a story.
So the office is now dark and will remain that way until our new leader arrives. The new guy is young and competent. He will bring his style and his shtick to Wilkes-Barre, and we will be here for him. We will continue to strive to be the best damn newspaper in the region and we will do our best to make him proud.
But there won’t be another Joe B. There really couldn’t be. We shall forever be thankful for the opportunities he gave us, for the management style he exuded to make us all feel comfortable and motivated, and for his friendship.
After working 12 years at the Citizens’ Voice, I left for private industry. I took a job at Allied Service John Heinz Institute and I enjoyed that experience; I was chagrined when I left that job.
But Joe B. gave me the chance to return to the business I love — that he loves. To come to work every day not knowing what I would be doing, but knowing it would be something challenging, fun and important to thousands of people that we serve.
“Newsies,” as we are called, have that in our DNA. We live to do this job. George Curry, the iconic football coach at Berwick, always had T-shirts for his players that had W.E.T.S.U. across the front — We Eat This **** Up.
Reporters have WETSU embedded in their brains. Reporters, indeed, eat this **** up. It’s why, at our best, we are so damn good.
Like Joe B.