Nov 1, 2019

I don't know about you, but from time to time, I feel burned out at work. I can tell it's coming on when I start to procrastinate on doing regular tasks or put off making deci­sions. That's not good when you're trying to run a small business. Fortunately, we have a great group of people here at The News-Gazette who do their jobs well in a pretty fast­paced environment. But there are some things that fall to me for the final decision.

Most of us operate under some level of stress. Too much stress and constant, un­remitting stress is bad for us, we know. However, a modest amount of stress, perhaps bet­ter called motivation, keeps us on schedule and accomplish­ing the tasks we need to do. Whether it's from above from a supervisor or self-imposed, this form of stress is necessary to keep the wheels turning.

Still, day after day, week after week, this need to be "on your game" is wearing. We all need a break from time to time. I think it's important to have interests outside of work and to take time off regularly. Also, for me, getting together with other newspaper people at our annual National Newspaper Association convention recharges my batteries. My wife. Lynne, and I attended the convention week before last in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It may sound counter-in­tuitive to find rejuvenation at a trade association event, but these folks are people I've grown to really like and re­spect. They come from small–­town newspapers all around America. They have the same worries and problems as we have, and they also have a lot of great ideas on how they've ad­dressed them. I always learn a lot from them.

The sessions are also generally very informative. One that interested me was presented by a person with a degree in change manage­ment. I didn't know that was even an academic field, but she did have some good insights. The newspaper industry has seen great changes in the past 20 years. We've seen change imposed on us from outside forces, such as the rise of the internet and the move to digital advertising away from print. I see that as passive change af­fecting our papers. The people I was interested in talking with are actively changing their newspapers, their busi­ness models and themselves to deal with the changing exter­nal world. I find it refreshing to chat with someone who is positive about the future and is proactively moving to ensure that they will be there when that future arrives.

I also get a lot from the vendors at the convention trade show — besides the swag they all have for our goodie bags. I learn about new prod­ucts and services, some of which we may try here at The News-Gazette. Some work well for us, others are tried and discarded as not a good fit.

It's not all sessions, ven­dors and shop talk. The con­vention hosts what it called the Extravaganza every year, which is usually off-site at some interesting venue in the convention city. This year, we had dinner and a tour at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Besides the Extravaganza, we had some time to explore downtown Milwaukee, and were impressed with the ar­chitecture of the downtown buildings, the restaurants, and the riverwalk through the downtown. Milwaukee's art museum was within walking distance of the hotel, though we didn't get there this year. The building itself is a work of art with a huge wing-like screen that rises above the building, weather permitting.

My sense is that many small newspaper publishers deal with the stresses and chal­lenges of running a newspaper pretty much on their own. It can be lonely, but it sure helps to know that you have a net­work of fellow publishers you can call on for advice or just a sympathetic ear. I imagine it's the same in many areas of small businesses, not just community newspapers. At least I hope it is.

Matt Paxton is the publisher of The News-Gazette in Lexington, Virginia, and an NNA past president. He is also the chair of the Government Relations Committee.