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Much has changed in 10 years, but not everything

 

By LAYNE BRUCE

Executive Director

 

JACKSON – My first day on the job with MPA was a Monday 10 years ago. It was the Monday before that year’s Mid-Winter Conference, actually.

In retrospect, that doesn’t seem like the best time to start a new gig. There’s a special kind of craziness that goes on around this office on the week of meetings. But our Member Services Manager Monica Gilmer reminded me it could be worse: She started a few days prior to Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in 2005. The ensuing weeks are a time period of which the long-timers around here are not very fond.

Nevertheless, my first few days, weeks and months here were unlike any of my previous – and numerous – work experiences. For one, I had always worked at newspapers. Starting at my hometown paper, my days and weeks had been a steady stream of deadlines. Some big. Some small. All important.

Coming to work for the Association required a reset of my internal chronometer. Deadlines, still very important, came much less frequently. In fact, I found myself meandering from task to task, not knowing which to complete and which to put on hold. Only the clarity of conventions and conferences seemed to put me on the ball like in the days when I was filing news stories or designing pages.

Time, mercurial as it is, finally taught me how to plan my days and weeks. And now I very much appreciate the different, though not necessarily relaxed pace.

CONVENTIONS HAVE been something around which my summers revolved since I was a kid.

My father took my sister and me to our first MPA event at the old Broadwater Hotel way back in the 80s. I still remember falling in love with the coast. Prior to attending my first convention, I had never even been to Biloxi. Being from the “north,” my family’s preferred weekend getaway – a weekend being all the time a small town editor could afford – was to Memphis. (A city, by the way, that still calls my name from time to time.)

But there was something about the coast and MPA events that was fun and special. Later, after I got on the newspaper’s payroll, it was even more exciting to go to the press association events if I had been lucky enough to win an award in the contests.

My first “first” was for a column I wrote about the 1991 Christmas parade. I still have that plaque on the wall of my office.

THIS YEAR, in a few days, actually, I celebrate 10 years at MPA. Much more significantly, this year the Association marks its 150th anniversary.

Think about that number for a moment. Not many things last for 150 years. Some naysayers would probably comment that we have defied the odds of what the last decade has thrown at us.

But persevere we have. Grown and learned much along the way.

Of all of the benefits my three decade association with this Association has afforded me, the relationship with so many great people has been the most rewarding.

I wouldn’t dare try to name everyone, but I’ll certainly point out a few to whom I am deeply grateful. Lloyd Gray, for one, was president of MPA when I was hired, and Marcus Bowers was president when I was promoted to executive director. Carolyn Wilson, my predecessor, actually made it happen.

They and the board members at the time didn’t have to give me those chances. But boy am I thankful they did.

Other folks have just become some good, fine friends. As many of you know, it makes work a lot more fun when you really like the people around you. In that regard, I’m also grateful for Andrea, Monica, Sue and Lauren. They’re the dedicated crew at the office who keeps the trains running on time – and represents our organization so very well.

A lot – and I mean a lot – has changed in the decade I’ve worked for MPA. It’s been a wild and harried ride in many respects.

Lots of good folks have come and gone. I particularly miss working with buddies like David Hampton, Bill Jacobs, Tom Andrews, Jimmy Clark, Mark Williams and, of course, Patsy Speights. There are many others.

What’s encouraging is some of the talented people who have come along to pick up the baton. We have a great and dedicated collection of fine newspaper and media professionals among our ranks – some longtimers, others newcomers.

What hasn’t changed over the last 10 years is the need for quality community journalism. As we embark on the next chapter of this fine organization’s history, I don’t see that becoming any less true.

So, Happy Anniversary to us all!

Layne Bruce is executive director of MPA-MPS. His email address is lbruce@mspress.org.

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