Mike was (and is) a World-Herald columnist. Dave was the chief political reporter. They shot straight with me, telling me why they loved working at the World-Herald and how some days it drove them crazy. They shared with me their aspirations for making that mediocre newspaper a lot better.
Dave’s retiring this November (he couldn’t retire before an election) as the World-Herald’s managing editor. No one has done more to make that mediocre paper a lot better.
Dave and I are different in a lot of ways. He’s stayed at the World-Herald for 32 years after hitches at the Arkansas Democrat and Lincoln Journal Star. Since I started in Omaha following that job interview, I’ve changed jobs six times (one of them a return to the World-Herald). While I left various jobs because of new opportunities, new goals and dashed hopes, Dave persisted in improving the same newspaper.
During the 10 years Dave and I spent as colleagues at the World-Herald, we shared a lot of the same goals for our newsroom, but we pursued them in different ways. When I bluntly told World-Herald editors how they were screwing up, Dave quietly showed them how to do things better. I think we both helped improve the paper, but I have no doubt who had more impact. I can’t think of anyone in the past 20 years who’s done more than Dave to improve that newsroom.
He was a reporter while I worked there, moving to managing editor in 2007. He knew more about Nebraska politics than anyone in the state and a lot about Iowa politics. I remember once when I counted colleagues’ front-page bylines in the Sunday paper (I might have been making a case for a better pay raise, or maybe just fueling my ego). I was certain that I was on the Sunday cover more than anyone that year. Not true. Dave had more.
I’d consult with him on stories that had nothing to do with politics because Dave knew helpful tips and sources on any topic. When my laptop wasn’t working right (or when I wasn’t working it right), I’d call Dave before calling IT because Dave understood better than anyone on our staff how to work those damn things. On my second hitch at the World-Herald, they made me writing coach, but Dave was kind of my personal coach on navigating the tricky newsroom currents.
I’m not sure managing editor was actually a promotion for Dave. He already was the recognized leader of the newsroom. It was more like a promotion for the position of ME. The World-Herald will miss him. It’s a much better newsroom because of his contributions.
A closing note: Congratulations to Dave’s successor, Melissa Matczak. I didn’t work as closely or as long with Melissa, but I was impressed and wish her well.