Hi, I’m the new guy

By Tom Stangl

From the publisher’s desk

“Don’t panic.”

That’s the advice I gave myself six years ago when my wife and I left Iowa, where we had lived since birth. Our daughters had grown up and made Minnesota their home. After the birth of our first granddaughter in 2008, we felt the need to be closer and more relevant in their lives.

It was a bit daunting, to say the least, to leave a job at a daily newspaper where I had worked for 15 years, purge many of our material possessions and come to Wisconsin.

But we survived the move to Amery.

“Don’t panic.”

That’s the advice I gave myself as I took over the Free Press, which had been in the Sondreal family for 71 years. Jerry and Steve Sondreal were retiring in the community and would be around, so there wasn’t much pressure.

Six years and a complete redesign and format change of the paper later, we are fine.

When I learned that I would be overseeing the Baldwin Bulletin, which has been in the Hawley family for four generations and 126 years, I’ll admit, I panicked a bit.

But I know it will be fine.

I’ve been in the newspaper business nearly all my adult life, and a chunk of my childhood as well.

I took over my brother’s paper route at 10 years old, delivering the Des Moines Register seven days a week for eight years. My late father Arved helped me on Sundays. With four sons delivering papers, my dad (also known as “The Chief”) got up early every Sunday for over 25 years.

I had a great high school journalism teacher who showed me a profession that I felt came naturally.

I worked for the Des Moines Register for four years in circulation. I edited an antique car magazine and sold advertising before buying three weekly newspapers with my wife in 1987.

We sold the papers in 1997 to the Daily Sentinel in Le Mars, where I worked for 15 years doing everything from editing the paper to working on the press.

I answered a blind ad for help wanted and met Gene and Carter Johnson.

I can tell you this – you will be hard pressed to find two men who have a greater belief in the importance of community newspapers. The Johnsons are proud promoters and watchdogs of their communities. You will have a newspaper you will be proud to call your hometown paper.

This is no reflection on Peter and Tom and everything they have done for this community. I don’t think that anyone fully realizes the importance of a community newspaper and the sacrifices the family made to produce a newspaper.

I am grateful to be able to work with Peter and Tom as we get up to speed. I hope to be able to call them friends as we get to know each other better.

I’m hoping the same will be true of you, gentle reader. As we get acquainted, I want you to feel free to contact me about anything.

There are some exciting changes in the works. We will have time to discuss them in these pages in the coming weeks.

Until then, I’d like to leave you with this advice:

“Don’t panic.”

It truly will be fine, I promise.

I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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