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Bulletin starts 24th year of publication

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Allow me to ramble on a little in this first column of our 24th year of publishing The Bulletin.
Out of the 52 columns I write annually in this space, this is my favorite. It starts another year of publication. The paper’s first issue appeared on July 4, 1994.

That’s a long time. I would not have bet when we worked on the first issue that we’d still be publishing a weekly paper today. It is a risky business, especially since the advent of high speed internet.

But here we are, churning out another issue. I guess someday we’ll have to stop, but I don’t know when.

When we started, I was a young dad of three children. Now I am a young granddad of one. I have gone from juggling deadlines and picking up the kids from school to juggling deadlines and picking up my medicine from the pharmacy.

Just kidding. There is nothing wrong with me.

Some of our counterparts predicted that we’d be just another failing start-up. My editor at the Houston Chronicle held my job open for five months and then called me to inquire if I would go back.

That’s where I worked before deciding to become a full-time publisher. It was a great job. I held it for 12 years plus, but I could not return. I decided to take a step back from the corporate life and see if we could make it on our own.

Our third and last child, Stephanie, was born 16 months earlier, and we had two elementary school-aged sons, John III and Bobby. I had just taken John to Europe for a meet-and-greet with relatives in the old country. When I quit, I left behind fully covered health insurance and all the other benefits the Chronicle offered.

I believe that’s why a lot of potential entrepreneurs never take that big step. They think there is too much risk to leave it all behind, including a steady paycheck.

But what’s the worst thing that could have happened? If we flopped, I would have gone back to working for the man. And Sharon, my wife and co-publisher, would have gone back to freelancing and marketing. We saw no long-term harm in taking the big step.

The beginning years were no cakewalk. We worked hard to make the paper the best we could each week, carefully shaping and reshaping its content to carve out a niche of our own.

We spent many late nights finishing the paper. The manual layout was a big pain in the neck each week, but the wonderful world of everything digital had yet to arrive.

Having a toddler around while we worked also slightly complicated things. For example, one morning, Stephanie decided to “fix” my main computer’s floppy drive. I used floppy disks to transfer articles between computers.

The problem was that I had yet to transfer the current week’s articles to the layout computer.
She smiled and held up the pencil that she just pulled out of the drive. “I fixed it, daddy,” she said. She sure did. Press run was the next morning.

I hurried to the nearest place where I could pick up another drive, managed to install it, and work on the paper continued. It was late into the night on my part, because I lost a lot of time wearing my computer tech hat that day.

Stephanie wasn’t the only one who ‘fixed” things around here.

I blew a power supply a day before publication. That was another long day. I just bought another computer and fixed the old one later.

Then a relative who professed to know a lot about computers volunteered to make mine run faster, and he crashed it. He worked on it all night and brought it back to life. That was a long, nervous night, but at least we were not on deadline.

It has been a rewarding 23 years, dear reader. I want to thank every one of you for staying with us over the decades. I hope we entertained and informed you with every issue.

I also appreciate all our advertisers. Some of you have been with us for a very long time, and we are grateful for your business.

If I had to do it again, I would not change a thing, except for the pencil thing and the other tech-related missteps. It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to publish The Bulletin for all these years.

We look forward to many more years. We’re not going anywhere for while. I’d be bored without a deadline hanging over my head.