Happy birthday, boss!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Two years ago on a hot July day, I saw the Carroll County News office for the first time. I had just graduated from college with a journalism degree and spent much of the summer searching for work in my field. Quickly, I realized I wouldn't likely find that work. I took an office job in Fayetteville instead, accepting the job the same Monday I heard about an opening at the Lovely County Citizen.

My college mentor told me about the job and said he knew the editor, Scott Loftis, from one of his newspaper gigs way back when. He gave me Scott's contact information, and I messaged him immediately. Less than 15 minutes later, Scott called me. I expressed interest in the associate editor position. Scott told me he was seeking someone with a little more experience but said he'd like to interview me for the reporter position that had just opened up at Carroll County News. After talking back and forth for a couple of days, we scheduled the interview for Friday morning. Coincidentally, I was supposed to fill out background information for the office job I had accepted in Fayetteville later that day.

Sitting outside the Carroll County News office in my car, it struck me how nervous I felt. This was my chance to do something I wanted to do, something I had wanted to do since I was a child. I didn't want to screw it up. A few internal pep talks later, I entered the building. "I'm here to see Scott Loftis," I told the receptionist. She disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a very intimidating man trailing behind her. He introduced himself as Scott Loftis, the managing editor of Carroll County Newspapers, and asked me to come to his office. Once he spoke, I realized he wasn't that intimidating. Now that I've known him for a couple of years, I know that's just how his face looks.

The interview didn't last long. Scott asked me a few questions about what I had done so far in my career, and I explained some of the highlights. Working at my school newspaper was one of those highlights, so you can imagine how under-qualified I felt. He said he needed to talk to the publisher about something, leaving me in his office to worry about how well I fared during the interview. Did I talk too much? Did I talk too little? I guess I talked just enough, because he came back with a big smile on his face five minutes later.

"Welcome aboard!" he said. "How soon can you start?"

In my first six months at Carroll County News, I learned more about my field than I ever thought possible. Much of the time, I felt I was constantly making mistakes and feared I'd be fired for misspelling something or arriving a little late to a school board meeting. Scott always kept me in check. He was my biggest supporter in the office, enthusiastically telling me when I did something right. And when I did something wrong, he'd let me know constructively. It was very clear to me that he wanted me to be the best I could be.

In the past, I had bosses with slightly different managerial styles. During my senior year of college, I worked at my school's public relations office under a very particular boss. He wanted things to be done his way, and he'd assert himself by calling me "ma'am" and rapping on my desk to get my attention. One time, I used the word "peak" in a story where I should had written "pique." He told me about my mistake with glee, almost as if he had been waiting for me to screw up so he could gloat over it.

Scott has never treated me that way. From the moment I started working at Carroll County News, I felt respected and valued by everyone on our editorial team. I know that's because of the way Scott leads. I've worked in offices where people slack off when the boss isn't looking, and that doesn't happen here. We all want to do our best, because Scott encourages us to do that.

He's a wonderful editor and a pretty great writer, too. I especially love the columns he writes about current events or politics. He doesn't fear the backlash he knows he'll get for taking a stance against Donald Trump. He writes what he believes without fear, and he doesn't let it bother him when people sling personal attacks his way because of it.

Today is his birthday, and he deserves to be recognized for his wonderful leadership and talent. He joked the other day that I'll end up being the managing editor of Carroll County Newspapers someday, that I'll end up just like him.

Well, one can hope.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com