I was in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in the summer of 1978 attending the summer meeting of the American Agricultural Editors' Association when I received a call from Bill NcNamee.
McNamee was the owner and publisher of three farm publications and was considering starting a fourth for California and Arizona. I had no idea who he was, but I was aware of one of his publications, Southwest Farm Press, and the idea was most intriguing.
As a former newspaperman, a weekly, timely tabloid farm publication printed on newsprint was something to get excited about.
McNamee and I met later in Fresno. However, I had no idea that the conversation would lead me to one of the most rewarding times of my career as editor of Western Farm Press (formerly California-Arizona Farm Press).
McNamee didn't offer me a job initially. He had several candidates. One was a friend and former co-worker Dan Bryant. Dan and I knew we were competing for the job, but I don't think Bill McNamee knew that. We both had good positions and basically wished the other well in the competition for the new Farm Press editorship. Fortunately for us both, NcNamee hired us both to launch his new publication.
I am indebted to the man who directed McNamee to me, the late Bob Fowler, a former Farm Journal editor who finished his career as a communications specialist at the University Arizona. Bob was one of my many mentors in this business.
There is an article in this 25th anniversary edition that recalls a few of the articles we had in that first year. I became tired looking at them all. I cannot believe we came out weekly then. However, I wish we still did.
In looking at those articles, I recalled my first full-time job as a journalist. It was working for a man named Clemo Clements on a small town weekly newspaper. There was one bit of advice he gave me when I went to work for him, and I have never forgotten it: “Harry, this is not your newspaper. It is not my newspaper. It is this town's newspaper. Respect that when you write anything. Without this town — your readers — there is no paper.”
I have earnestly tried to follow that advice with Western Farm Press and all the positions I have held in this business for the past 40 years.
It is not my publication. It is not owned by Primedia. (Don't let the folks in New York hear that. They may quit depositing my paycheck.)
You own Western Farm Press, and you allow me to do something I have loved to do for you for the past 25 years, report on California and Arizona agriculture, the most complex and progressive agricultural region in the world.
One of my favorite words is serendipitous. Western Farm Press Managing Editor Bob Frazer figures I use it too much. My short wife reminds me often of my affinity for it when I am driving and appear to be lost. She asks: “You know where you are going or are we having another serendipitous experience?”
The past 25 years have been journalistically serendipitous for me. It has been an unexpected, great experience and I am looking forward to more of the same. Thank you for allowing me to go on the journey.
Personal note: I want to thank those who responded to my column about my eyesight saga. Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.