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Key questions from the mouths of babes

At least a couple of times each month we welcome Cub Scouts or other youth groups to visit The Tribune and learn how the newspaper is created.

I probably enjoy these as much as the children because it is special to watch the wonder and amazement on their faces as the press fires up and rolls freshly printed newspapers off the conveyor. This is something that never gets old to see.

As we tour the building and I explain the individual departments that all have to work together to produce the newspaper — classifieds, circulation, the newsroom, advertising, composing and production — I will often see a small hand shoot up, usually towards the back of the group.

“What do you do?” the young boy or girl asks in a quiet voice, a question that always seems to elicit giggles from the nearby employees who are waiting anxiously to hear the answer.

In some ways it is truly a difficult thing to answer and I’m only sharing now to try to help better explain to the public. I am not, in any way, trying to toot my own horn.

In most basic terms, the newspaper publisher is the manager. It is my job to work with the other department heads and leaders to make sure we meet the goals and achieve the vision we set forth for The Tribune.

I often joke that my job is like being the head coach of a football team. I get too much credit when things go right and too much blame when they go wrong.

But, in reality, it is far more than that.

In fact, I see my role as being much closer to head cheerleader (don’t worry everyone, I have no plans on breaking out the pom-poms and skirt). I’m often the public face of the newspaper along with reporters and sales representatives and ladies in the front office.

I feel it is important for me to be involved in the community through various civic organizations and other projects, to represent the newspaper professionally and to be accessible to the public when needed.

Overall, I feel like I do most of these pretty well but am always looking to improve.

An anonymous web blogger recently accused me of refusing to meet with him or her and essentially running out the back door the office. I put very little stock in this type of anonymous commentary, but I got a good laugh from this one.

First, it simply isn’t true. In the nearly 10 years that I’ve been at the newspaper I can count on one hand the number of times that I have told someone that I cannot meet with them, always urging them to meet with me later or make an appointment because we were facing a deadline.

And as I thought about this fictional accusation I thought of a recent incident or two that helps validate my approach to constantly having an open-door policy and being accessible.

I was recently working on a big project with a tight deadline and it was really coming down to the wire. But a reader came in, upset over an editorial and wanted to talk about it. It was just as important to her as the project I was working on is to me.

So I sat down and took the time to listen to her perspective. She walked away satisfied that I listened and I walked away far more informed about a complicated topic.

Last week, I had just finished eating lunch in Ashland, Ky., when a lady approached my table. She was very polite and apologetic because she felt like she was interrupting me — she wasn’t — or that I minded. I didn’t.

We had a great conversation about key issues facing our community. I left that lunch more filled from the conversation than the meal I had just eaten.

Do I deserve a cookie for this? No way. Talking with our readers is part of my job, and pretty much my favorite part.

So if you want to know something about me or about The Tribune, just ask. Give me a call, make an appointment or just stop by. I’ll even give you a tour if you want.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.