Spokane Journal of Business

Paul Read: Look how far we’ve come, thanks to you

Journal’s growth fueled by community’s embrace

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When our editor, Linn Parish, and I first talked about taking a moment to celebrate 35 years of publishing for the Journal of Business, we mostly wanted to ensure that whatever we did wouldn’t focus on us. 

After all, if we have done our jobs right, the Journal has served simply as a reflection of the business community for all those years, and thus, commentary on the moment should emphasize that community’s reflection on what we all have seen in that lively time period. 

Having been at the Journal for all of those days—truthfully some days even prior to our founding—I have had the privilege of observing the community I love work its way through recessions, see its downtown on the brink and then blossom, grow in good and bad ways, celebrate giant wins, look introspectively at its weaknesses and toil against them, and yes, navigate its way through a worldwide pandemic. 

Hopefully, the few pages we have dedicated to this anniversary give voice to at least a piece of that history, from the perspective of others. But I also can’t let this moment pass without reminding some, and telling others, about how we started. It is similar to so many entrepreneurial tales, the kind we report on every issue.

And thus, it is special to me, so for those who have read many of the following words before, lifted up at previous anniversaries, please indulge my nostalgia.

The early days

 

It was a chilly Saturday morning in early February 1986, and all six staffers of the Journal of Business were scrubbing the dingy walls and windows of the inauspicious office space that would become our upstart newspaper’s first home, in an old warehouse building along Division Street near Sprague Avenue. 

We had nothing. No office equipment. No furniture. No stationery or business cards. 

We did have desire—manifested that morning with each stroke of a dirty sponge, and in the 35 years to follow, with each stroke of the pen, whether on a news story or an advertising contract. 

Our first issue was nearly to press that February morning, orchestrated from our homes and pulled together in the back room of a commercial printer that had trustingly given us credit. 

I remember vividly the morning after that 28-page premier issue miraculously went to press. Our office space seemed dauntingly bare. A single working telephone sat on the carpet, and in a corner stood a handful of secondhand chairs left by an office supply store that had vacated the building. Skeptical of the startup’s financial depth, I bought myself an inexpensive desk and placed atop its imitation-oak surface an Osborne computer I had brought from home. After all, there was little time to waste. We had another paper to get out. 

So went the early days of the Journal of Business. 

Our sales “department” consisted of four people, headed by co-founder Scott Crytser, a spirited man who seemingly could sell anything, and our news team amounted to Editor and co-founder Norman Thorpe, a Wall Street Journal veteran, and me, who had left a job at another small business tabloid here. We also lassoed a gifted artist seemingly on his way out of town, and managed to detain him as our contract graphic artist. 

We often would run staff-written stories in our paper without bylines, embarrassed that we had only two staff bylines we could print. Every ad sale, meanwhile, was meritorious. No one knew of the Journal of Business, and only the bold were willing to risk their ad budgets on an unproven publication during unsettling economic times. The sales team would ring a small bell, placed strategically in the middle of our office, each time an advertisement was sold. Its chime was music to our ears. We still have that bell today. 

In those early days, as we made our mistakes and the paper struggled to make payroll, we were amazed at the support we received. Spokane was embracing us as its own, and our confidence grew. Letters began arriving from business, civic, and government leaders, all congratulating our venture. Advertisers told us customers were mentioning our name. We knew we had something going, and it turned out we would be fortunate enough to ride numerous ups and downs in the Spokane economy for the next 3 1/2 decades. 

The Journal has been more successful than any of us dreamed back then. It became a subsidiary of Cowles Co. 26 years ago, when founders Crytser and Thorpe sold the paper to pursue other interests. 

In recent years, our industry has been turned on its head, as publications fight for the attention of readers bombarded with information from too many sources. Yet, we have thrived, seeking to provide content not easily found elsewhere. 

Perhaps the biggest change over the years has been our presence. It’s a rare occurrence now when we have to explain to someone locally what the Journal is. Top executives and managers welcome us into their offices and factories. Advertisers support us with their pocketbooks, as do our loyal readers. This more than anything is why I still love to come to work, nearly 13,000 days after that first Saturday. 

On behalf of our staff, both past and present, I’d like to thank you all for that. It will be our privilege during the decades ahead to retain the trust you have placed in us. 

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