Before I was old enough to have a job, I helped family members package and deliver a weekly newspaper for pocket change. I thought I hit the jackpot with the extra money I earned and it would burn a hole in my pocket until every cent was spent.
I would head to the nearest convenience store and load up on soda and candy. Then anything leftover was deposited into the Pac-man video game. Yes, I would blow all the money in one trip to the store but I knew I could return the following week to roll newspapers and earn more money. I never dreamed that the little part-time gig would have opened the door to so many wonderful opportunities. On the business side of operations, I worked almost every position advancing along the way and spent the last 12 years as publisher of Highlands Today.
I will always be grateful for the experience, however, after spending a majority of my life in the newspaper business, I am making a career change. This bold move is frightening yet exciting and all about timing, for me, my family and the newspaper.
I am still young enough to have a second career and I want a new challenge. For the newspaper, Highlands Today’s audience is larger than ever and the business model is strong. There are very strong leaders in every department. As hard as it is to admit, new blood is good for any organization.
I will be going to work for South Florida State College, my former college, and I am very excited about the opportunity extended to me. I worked full-time at the newspaper while pursing my degrees. I spent many nights at SFSC so I feel like I am returning to my second home.
At the college, I will be leading the XCEL-IT program. I am looking forward to working with the community in a different role, which is offering workforce training in logistics and cyber security. I am really excited to work with the students as well. This cutting-edge program will extend them an opportunity to earn credit hours towards their associate degree or allow for continuing education and training in their workplace to make businesses stronger and safer in terms of computer security.
I know there will be aspects of the media business that I will miss, but one thing is for sure, I will miss my co-workers the most. I have had the privilege to work with some of the best talent in the industry at Highlands Today and The Tampa Tribune. I’m proud of the blood, sweat and tears all the employees at Highlands Today put into the operation to produce a newspaper every day, digital products that change by the minute and special events that serve our community. Oh and when I said, “blood, sweat and tears” that was also meant literally as well.
Before computers, pages were designed with a cut and paste method, and take it from me, a new blade on an X-Acto knife and deadline pressures are not a good combination. We made sure the first aid kit was fully stocked with bandages.
The hurricanes of 2004, bring back lots of memories of sitting around a generator with computers plugged in with no air conditioning. We traded our business attire for shorts and tank tops but we managed to publish a newspaper every day.
There have been lots of tears, both good and bad. Tears of joy were shed when our work led to the release of an innocent man from prison or when our lobby was flooded with gifts for those in need. Tears of sadness when we had to cover difficult stories or handle stressful situations. But all those experiences that we shared together give us a lifetime of stories and fond memories.
The employees at Highlands Today are the reason for its success, which will continue, I have no doubt. They are a great group of professionals, I miss them already!
But I am fortunate that I have been able to find an opportunity in Highlands County that was appealing to me so this is not a farewell column but a see you around town in a new role.
Tina Gottus is publisher of Highlands Today.