InnerView with Dean Singleton
By Jody Hope Strogoff
William Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group and chairman and publisher of The Denver Post, was this year’s recipient of the Mizel Museum’s Community Cultural Enrichment Award. His family and more than 1,800 friends from media, politics, business and the arts gathered to honor Singleton at a gala dinner on May 14.
Singleton began his newspaper career at the age of 15 as a part time reporter in his hometown of Graham, Texas, and bought his first newspaper at age 21. He served on the board of the Newspaper Association of America from 1993 until 2004, and is the former chairman. He also serves as chairman of the Associated Press board of directors.
Singleton founded MediaNews Group in 1983 and in its 26th year, MediaNews is one of the nation’s largest newspaper companies, currently publishing 61 daily newspapers and twice as many non-daily publications in 12 states.
Singleton also sits on the boards of several organizations and foundations: the Helen G. Bonfils Foundation, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, the Winter Park Recreational Board, the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center, and the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
These days, Singleton has had to confront many of the problems plaguing the newspaper industry as a whole — dwindling circulations among daily papers, competition from the Internet, rising costs in newsprint, and specifically here in Denver, how to turn his flagship newspaper into a profitable venture now that the Rocky Mountain News has ceased publication.
On top of that, Singleton is battling Multiple Sclerosis and he acknowledges that the disease has taken its toll. Yet throughout all his travails, Singleton remains highly optimistic and looks forward to the future.
Singleton was interviewed by Colorado Statesman Editor Jody Hope Strogoff earlier this month in anticipation of his receiving the Mizel Museum award. The interview took place after work at Singleton’s 11th floor office of the Denver Post building. The interview had been edited for space and clarity.
Colorado Statesman (CS): Congratulations on receiving the Mizel Museum’s Community Cultrual Enrichment award. What does it mean to you?
Dean Singleton (DS): I’m very honored because of where it comes from. I think I’ve attended every Mizel Museum dinner since they started except one, and I’m honored to be included in the distinguished list. I don’t feel really deserving of it, so I’m a little shy about it. I’m not the governor or the mayor.
CS: But you’re certainly an important person in Denver. You’ve lived in a lot of places. Do you consider this your home?
DS: I’ve been here since I bought the Post 22 years ago, and I was here a lot immediately afterwards. The family came in early ’93. It’s been my permanent home for 16 years, and, actually, in my almost 58 years of life, it’s the place I’ve lived the longest in. So it’s very much home.
CS: Is there anything in particular you like about the city?
DS: There’s nothing not to like about it. I grew up in Texas, and we were a very poor family economically. But my father would take two weeks every year, and we started coming to Colorado when I was 6. That’s when I fell in love with Colorado. I came to Grand County the summers during college, so I’ve always had a love affair with Colorado.
I love the beauty. I love the weather. I love the people.
Denver is a world-class city. There’s nothing that any city in the world has that Denver doesn’t have, yet it still has the feeling of a small town.
And how could you not love to look at that? (He points to the vast panorama visible from his 11th floor office in the Denver Post Building.) I mean, even on the worst days — and certainly there are a lot of bad days in this economy for the newspaper business — how can you get depressed looking at this view?
The natural beauty is phenomenal. I can look over here and see whether the governor’s car is there or not. And I can look over here and see the mayor’s office. As I told them both, “I’m watching.”
So it is, I think, among the most beautiful cities in the world.
CS: Do you perhaps watch the governor more than the mayor?
DS: We watch them both!
Actually, I told that story to Governor Owens when he was governor — we moved in this building when Owens was in office. We were up at Phil Anschutz’s ranch, and the governor and the mayor were there, and they asked me how I liked my new office.
I said, “I love it. I look to my left, and I see the governor’s office. And I look to my right, and I see the mayor’s office. And I’m watching you both.”
This is a magnificent city. It’s a magnificent state. I travel a lot, and every time I fly in from a business trip and see the mountains, I just feel at home again.
CS: Do you do a lot of traveling?
DS: I go to visit our newspapers in 12 states, and then I have an office in New York as chairman of the Associated Press. So I go to New York a lot.
Love New York. Not as much as I love Denver, but I love New York. It’s an exciting place.
CS: Do you feel comfortable with your relationship with Governor Ritter? I assumed there were some hard feelings (after The Denver Post published a front page editorial criticizing Ritter.)
DS: No. I don’t think there are hard feelings. I consider the governor a very good friend. I see him often, talk to him often.
I talk to him a lot about issues. I talk to him a lot about personal things — family. One of his sons is a good friend of my youngest son, and they hang out together a lot, so we have that in common.
I agree with him on most issues, but some issues we don’t agree on. When we think he has made a wrong decision we point it out — but we did that with Governor Owens and Governor Romer.
But even though (The Post) can be critical (when) we don’t agree, we can be complimentary (when) we do agree. And it’s never been personal…. In fact, I consider him a very good friend, both socially and professionally.
CS: Do you think he’s been a strong leader?
DS: I’m on the editorial board of The Denver Post, and publisher of The Post. And I do influence the editorial board on editorial opinions from time to time. But I don’t influence every decision that’s made editorially. There are times when The Post editorial board is critical of the governor when I may not agree with him or any politician. So all the editorials in The Post don’t reflect my views — but some do.
The Post, editorially, has been critical of the governor and has criticized him for not being a strong leader. … I wouldn’t disagree that, on some issues, the governor hasn’t been a strong leader. But on some issues, he has.
I would have expected a Democratic governor to have a closer relationship with the Democratic House and the Democratic Senate, and they haven’t been that close.
Dean Singleton, third from left, is a Denver Rustler and has participated in the annual forays to the Jr. Livestock Sale at the State Fair. Also pictured are Jake Jabs, Larry Mizel and Rick Sapkin.
I don’t know whose fault it is.
I would have expected the governor to come out quickly to give his opinion on issues that the Legislature is considering, and it seems to me — and to the editorial board — that he hasn’t always done that.
So I think it’s valid to be critical of his leadership on certain issues, but not on others.
I think the governor walks a very fine line. He is a Democrat, and he’s expected to have certain positions that Democrats have, but he is a very moderate Democrat who doesn’t always agree with is own party.
Take the pro-life issue or pro-choice. He is pro-life when most of his party is pro-choice. He came right out on that one when he ran.
I think there are many other issues where he is not a typical Democrat.
So when you take positions that are at odds with your party, it’s not always prudent to blast it on a billboard. I think that’s the balancing act he has.
For example, you would expect a governor to come out and say, “I’m either for (the death penalty) or against it.” And we don’t know what his position is — and we won’t know — because the bill didn’t pass. He would have had to have taken a position.
And I think he was torn.
As a three-term district attorney, he obviously supports the death penalty. But as a devout Catholic…. Catholics oppose the death penalty. So I think he’s torn on issues like that.
Still, as the governor, you would expect him to come out and say it. Because if he said, “I’ll veto that,” it would never have got to first base. Or if he said, “I’ll sign it,” it probably would have gotten there.
Instead, he took a pass. And that’s probably good politics, but not particularly good leadership.
However, on environmental issues, on oil and gas drilling rules, on which we agree with him, he has been right out there.
So it would be unfair to the governor to say he’s not a strong leader. He’s a strong leader on certain issues and not on others. And I suspect that’s by design.
We, as newspaper folks, think you should always have your opinions out there, and he doesn’t see it that way.
That’s a long way to say that, on some issues, I think he hasn’t been a good leader. But on some issues, I think he has.
CS: Have you thought much about whether the editorial board will endorse him for re-election in 2010?
DS: We wouldn’t make that decision until we see a campaign and know who he’s running against, and what the issues are, and what the positions are.
We’ve had two principles on the editorial page ever since I’ve been here — two guiding principles on endorsements. One is that we try to endorse the candidate who is most aligned with our editorial opinions. And, two, we almost always take the position that the incumbent gets our support unless there’s a reason for us not to support him or her.
So the incumbent is favored unless there’s a reason not to favor the incumbent.
That’s especially true in congressional and in Senate races because seniority means everything in the Senate or the House. Incumbency and seniority mean everything there, and we’ll overlook disagreements. Not always. But usually, because we think incumbency makes Colorado stronger.
We also have always opposed term limits. We believe the voters should have that power, not the Constitution.
CS: Do you consider Michael Bennet an incumbent U.S. senator?
It’s an awkward incumbency, because he was appointed, not elected, and he hasn’t served long enough for us to understand what all his positions are.
However, he is a very bright person. He’s a person that we’ve admired from his time with both the city and the Denver schools. We think most of his positions are aligned with ours, but he hasn’t voted enough for us to know that for sure. But I would consider him an incumbent.
CS: Were you surprised by his selection?
DS: Long before Ken Salazar decided to leave the Senate and go to the Cabinet, the governor privately discussed with me the candidates he would consider appointing, and Michael was at the top of his list early on. So I really wasn’t surprised.
I thought that the better choice would have been (Denver Mayor John) Hickenlooper — for a lot of reasons.
And both I and The Denver Post supported an appointment of Hickenlooper. I know a lot of people did, and so I kind of thought the governor, if he listened to enough people, would probably pick Hickenlooper.
But when he did pick Bennet, I wasn’t surprised because he had had him at
the top of his list the first time he and I discussed it, which was even before Ken decided for sure whether to take the Interior job.
CS: What do you think of our delegation in Colorado?
DS: We are disadvantaged because of such a big lack of seniority in Washington. We were very supportive of Mark Udall — Mark’s a very good friend — but he’s a freshman. And Michael is a freshman.
So we have two freshmen senators who are both very good and, over time, will probably be great.
But they’re both freshmen, so that means they don’t have the same stature on committee assignments. They don’t have the same clout. So we’re weakened.
That’s not Mark Udall’s fault. It’s not Michael Bennet’s fault.
But Colorado senators, for some reason, have never served long tenures.
And while we did not endorse Senator (Wayne) Allard for a second term, and it was strictly over issues, I urged him to run for a third term. And I was disappointed when he didn’t run. Having a third-term senator would have given the state more clout than having a first-term senator.
And that goes back to what I said earlier — incumbency is very important, especially in the legislative branches, because that’s where the power comes to bring things home for your state.
The same is true in the House. We have a second-term congressman, and we have a freshman congressman (Jared Polis) in Boulder, and we have a second termer in (Ed) Permutter, and a freshman (Betsy Markey) out on the Plains, and a freshman in (Mike) Coffman.
We supported all of them. So we obviously believed they were the right people to be elected. But they’re all new. And, as a result, Colorado doesn’t have the clout in Washington that most states do.
I thought Hickenlooper would have been a great choice, because while he would be a freshman senator also, because of the (Democratic National) convention, he had become extremely well-regarded and respected among the leadership in Washington, and I think he would have had instant clout.
Now, Mark Udall’s been in the House for a long time, so Mark has more clout than some freshmen senators we have.
But I think saying that we’re disadvantaged because we have so many freshmen says nothing about the people we’ve sent. For the most part, the voters have sent the people that we urged them to send, and they’re going to be very good. But they’re new; you don’t have a Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts, you don’t have an Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania or an Orrin Hatch from Utah.
CS: What about Diana DeGette? She’s been around for several terms. Do you consider her someone with a lot of clout who’s helpful to Denver?
DS: Sure, and, actually, with the strong Democratic presence in the House, she does have probably more clout than she would have had before. In our House delegation, she’s certainly the leader.
CS: Has the newsroom changed much since the transition?
DS: I think the Rocky employees that we brought over have brought a new spark. We couldn’t bring as many as we would like to have, but we brought the ones that were the most high profile to readers, and most of them are characters. Mike Littwin and Penny Parker — they were probably among the leadership of the Rocky newsroom, and I think they brought some of the Rocky culture to the Post newsroom. To some point, they’ve energized the newsroom a bit.
CS: Do people ask you a lot about the state of the newspaper industry?
DS: If you look at what’s happening in today’s economy, newspaper, radio and TV are all suffering big time. But the typical consumer only knows about newspapers because we write about ourselves a lot. We have big news staffs, and the newspaper industry covers itself very aggressively.
We have the people to do it, and we don’t want to ever be accused of covering up any story. The changes in the newspaper industry are pretty dramatic, so we don’t want anybody to think that we didn’t cover the story well because it was (about) us.
I think we go overboard to cover problems in the newspaper industry and undercover what’s happening in other media — radio and TV in particular. And they don’t cover themselves.
If all you knew is what you read in the newspaper you would think newspapers are about to go away.
They’re not about to go away.
Second newspapers in competitive markets, they’re going away. There isn’t enough revenue to support them. Some major metros that are surrounded by strong suburban local dailies aren’t going to make it because they don’t have enough of the ad pie to support what they do.
So some newspapers aren’t going to make it. But most newspapers are going to make it.
And I think, unfortunately, the typical observer doesn’t know the difference between the two.
The San Francisco paper is in trouble because it has a very high cost structure and is surrounded by suburban dailies that take the overwhelming majority of the advertising.
Suburban dailies there have done a better job — not only at local news and circulation, but also in advertising. They’re hurting, too, they’re just not hurting as bad.
We all know about the Boston Globe. They’re surrounded by 24 suburban dailies, that have very strong local franchises. Yet, they’ve got the high cost structure but not a high enough percentage of the revenue in a reduced revenue environment.
So, while the structural change in newspapers and the economic decline that we’re having nationwide is hurting all newspapers, they’re hurting the major metros surrounded by suburban newspapers a lot more.
This shakeout may shake out some very fine newspapers, but most will get through it and do okay.
CS: Do you think the suburban newspapers surrounding Denver are particularly strong?
DS: No. There aren’t a lot of suburban dailies in metro Denver, and the amount of revenue that’s generated by suburban weeklies in Denver is relatively low compared to the suburban (papers) in Boston or Philadelphia or San Francisco.
CS: What about The Post moving more towards covering the suburban areas?
DS: The Post will have zoned editions again. Zoned editions are on the drawing board.
We brought 17 of the Your Hub employees over to The Post, plus the 11 we brought into the main newsroom. We do a lot of suburban coverage, and a lot of that’s reader generated. And Your Hub has been very successful.
Now that we’re down to one newspaper instead of two, it’s inevitable that we will probably go to do some daily zoning, as well.
It was difficult to do daily zoning when there were two newspapers, because of the cost. If you put out a zone in the geographic area of both The Post and The Rocky, you had to generate copy for both. Now it’s just The Post, so it’s inevitable that we’ll do some zoning.
We’ve been talking to advertisers about it, so it’s probably leaked out.
It won’t be like Your Hub, which has 40 zones. I can see four zones, so that we can do a better job of covering the news and, more importantly, a better job of targeting advertising. We realized our need to zone before, but we couldn’t do it with two newspapers. We can do it with one.
CS: How much content in The Denver Post do you think will be moving online versus in the actual paper in the future?
DS: You’re going to see less and less newsroom-generated copy online and more and more copy generated specifically for online. And we’re doing this company-wide. It’s not just Denver.
We’re going to move away from giving away our news content online for free — give a small amount of it away, and then air that out with reader-generated copy, with user-generated copy, with listings and other things online. We’re planning to make our online offerings much different than our print offerings.
It’s so much easier with one newspaper because you can promote one brand instead of two — you can have one newspaper generate new products, where before you couldn’t have one generate a product without the other (doing it).
It was very difficult to operate in today’s environment. We couldn’t really establish an online strategy, we couldn’t establish a zone strategy, we couldn’t establish new products the way we can today.
Newspapers believed that if you build it they would come — that if we threw all of our content online, we’d build this huge audience, and advertisers would flock to it.
Well, we built a huge audience and advertisers flocked to it, except the Internet is so competitive. There’s so much inventory on so many sites that the price of Internet advertising is so low that you can’t make the kind of money on it that you can in print.
Yet, we were sending our best customers to the Web for free.
We will be moving away from giving away most of our content online. We will be redoing our online to appeal certainly to a younger audience than the print does, but we’ll have less and less newspaper-generated content and more and more information listings and user-generated content.
CS: Do you see that as a trend for all newspapers?
DS: It’s a Media News model.
We brought internet executives and print executives from throughout Media News up to my ranch for a three-day retreat, and we basically took a hard new look at where we want to go. We’ve decided that’s the route we want to go.
We want to drive customers to our print newspaper, to our online E edition, which is the facsimile edition of the newspaper which people pay for, and probably do some pay sites.
We’ll always have free sites, but the free sites will be different than what our pay sites are.
It became pretty clear to our management team — and I’m talking Media News, not just Denver — that that’s the route we need to go. We’ll be rolling those changes out the second half of this year.
CS: Do you read much online yourself?
DS: Not much. About the only thing that I look at online personally is media information, because I can gather all that quickly. But I still get most of my information through the print product.
CS: Did you grow up reading newspapers?
DS: I grew up on a ranch in Young County, Texas, 20 miles from town, and our mailbox was almost a mile from our house. The daily newspaper would come in the 10 o’clock mail, and, as a young kid, I’d walk to the mailbox to get the newspaper and walk back to the house — obviously, not when I’m in school, but when I wasn’t in school. And the most exciting part of the day was getting our daily newspaper, which we got by mail. But we got it same-day mail.
CS: Do you believe that the younger generation will come back to newspapers?
DS: First of all, it’s a (myth) that young people don’t read newspapers. A lot of young people do read newspapers. It’s just a smaller percentage than adults.
I think there’s a very good chance that today’s youngest generations will not read newspapers the way we read them, and that’s why we must develop our Web operations.
But we must also establish a value for news, so that they can get some stuff for free but also pay for some.
If we continue to generate news, we’ve got to get paid for it. We’re going to have to move that younger reader to a pay model of the Internet of some kind.
I think the free sites we have will help us drive them to some of the pay sites.
There are two different kinds of pay sites. Obviously, the facsimile edition of the core newspaper — we sell all those now — I think The Post has 25,000 daily subscribers that pay and get the facsimile newspaper and the ads, but they get it online and they pay … I think we charge $30 a year for it, which is cheaper than the paper, and it’s cheaper for us to deliver. And that’s a growing number. We’re selling more and more of those at The Post.
Our biggest seller of online editions is St. Paul, Minnesota. Salt Lake City is a big facsimile market — we get $45 a year there. And I see that becoming a real model for a younger reader. Obviously, if we won’t provide all of our content free on the Web going forward, we’ll have to develop some pay sites as well.
We’re launching what we call the individuated newspaper in the fall in Los Angeles. You tell us what you want in the newspaper and (we) give you an individually prepared newspaper that will come to you online that you can print out. A company (that I can’t tell you about yet) is developing it for us.
We’ll be selling content in a variety of different fashions going forward.
But the industry has to change the model. It didn’t work because the cost per thousand on Internet advertising went down 47 percent last year. It’s down another 50 percent this year.
There’s so much content online. That also causes fragmentation, and I think the whole Internet advertising model may not be as vibrant as we once thought.
One thing about a newspaper, it’s not fragmented. The newspaper still has the largest audience of any media in every market. Some (may) argue that it’s an older audience, but it’s the audience with the buying power.
The newspaper audience is still a very strong audience. I think it’ll be a strong audience for a long, long time.
CS: Were you surprised that InDenverTimes didn’t meet its subscription goal?
DS: No. I didn’t think there was any chance it would. I certainly wasn’t wishing against them. If they had reached their goal, it would have been a good thing for the news business. But they were looking for 50,000 (subscribers), and they didn’t get 3,000. And those were only promises to pay, so I don’t think the 3,000 were real either.
I don’t think that model itself works.
I also don’t believe that in today’s world, you can build a news audience without the print paper. In fact, a newspaper in Europe tried it, and they closed their print and they lost 78 percent of the traffic. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is trying it, and they’ve lost a sizable amount of their traffic when they didn’t have the print behind it.
Part of that is the brand. The print supports a vast newsroom and The Post now, including Your Hub, is getting pretty darn close to 250 people. And if you put 30 staff behind a Web only, that’s not even close.
I think you need the print to help cover the cost of gathering the news. I think you need the print for the brand, and I think an online-only newspaper is not feasible today. Will it be feasible some day? Don’t know. But it’s not feasible today.
CS: Did it affect you personally, aside from a business standpoint, to close the Rocky Mountain News?
DS: First of all, I didn’t close The Rocky. Scripps Howard closed The Rocky, and we agreed that it had to happen.
As a businessperson, it was clear that two newspapers in Denver could not survive and that if we continued to try to support two, they would both go down.
So we knew one had to go. We’d known if for three years.
It was inevitable. And we didn’t want to go away, and they didn’t want to go away.
And the losses got bigger and bigger and bigger. I think it was the recession and loss of ad revenue and they made the decision to go.
It was a decision that one of us had to make.
The Post had to be the survivor because The Post had two thirds of the ad revenue, primarily because it had Sunday (edition), which was the biggest hunk of ad revenue; and it had broad sheet, which has a bigger page to sell inches on.
So both we and Scripps agreed from the beginning that if one had to go, it would be The Rocky, but Scripps didn’t want to close The Rocky. They didn’t want to leave Denver, and so there were discussions about whether they might end up buying The Post. I would not have wanted to do that, but if that’s the only way to save newspapering in Denver, I would have done it.
But I didn’t want to.
In the end, the losses had gotten so big that they (Scripps), just didn’t feel comfortable newspapering in Denver anymore.
That’s the business side.
Emotionally, it was extremely hard. I’ve been here 22 years, and the first newspaper I read every morning was the Rocky Mountain News.
Primarily because, if you’re comparing yourself with the competition, you need to know what the competition’s doing before you read your own. So I read five newspapers in the morning, and The Rocky was the first read, and The Post was the second.
I liked The Rocky. The Rocky was a fun newspaper to read. It had a lot of energy.
It spent less money on news than The Post did, but it utilized every dollar they spent extremely well.
I liked their personalities.
Even though we competed with it, I liked it a lot, and it was very sad to me as a newspaper reader to see it go. It was sad to me as a Coloradan to see it go, but I knew it had to.
Even today when I go pick up the newspaper I wonder where The Rocky is. Early in the morning I look around, “Where’s The Rocky?” Even today. I hated to see it go. I miss it, but I’m glad The Post survived.
CS: Do you feel that The Post will be doing a lot better financially sooner versus later?
DS: It’s already doing a lot better because the cost of producing one paper is less than the cost of producing two.
The Post is not yet profitable. On the day The Rocky closed, The Post inherited all the cost of producing both. We got labor concessions and began to make other cost cuts, so we’re gradually cutting costs down to a one-newspaper cost structure.
But they’re not there yet. You just can’t do it overnight. The Post is still losing a sizable amount of money. We forecast that there will at least be cash flow positives by the end of the year and, hopefully, profitability in either 2010 or 2011.
CS: Do you foresee many layoffs in the newsroom?
DS: We don’t plan any layoffs in the newsroom. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have them.
Since I’ve been here we’ve only had one layoff in the newsroom. There’s buyouts, but the only layoff we had was some managers. The rest were voluntary buyouts.
I can’t predict what the economy’s going to do but we aren’t planning any today.
Now, obviously (The Denver Newspaper Agency) has been laying off ever since The Rocky closed, and I think we’ve announced all those. They haven’t all happened yet, but we’ve announced them all.
We will have eliminated, by the end of June, several hundred positions — partly because you don’t need that many to produce one as you needed to produce two, and partly because of the economy we’ve had to cut back and streamline.
We went to the unions that had closed contracts and had very blunt conversations with them. We told them what we had to have, and they cooperated. They gave us what we said we had to have. Nobody was happy about it, but nobody disputed that we had to do it. We won’t see the results of all those cutbacks until the end of June, and we’ll continue to cut costs throughout the operation.
So we’ll see a path to profitability at The Post that we didn’t see with two newspapers. There was no hope for profitability ever with two. There is a path to profitability at The Post.
CS: Your home had been up for sale for a while, and I think it fueled some rumors that maybe you were going to go to sell The Post and move.
DS: I was never going to move.
We built a new home in ’99 and 2000 when we had three kids at home, and we did what many people did back then — we built a house way, way too big.
I’m down to one son at home, and he’s a year away from graduation. We just don’t need the big house, and so we put it on the market two years ago. This is not a good time to sell a house — we took it off (the market). We were planning to move to Washington Park. We’d like to live closer to downtown.
I’d love to live downtown — (but) my wife doesn’t want to. She still wants a yard, so her choice would be Washington Park. My choice would be a high rise downtown. If I had my way, we’d live in a small apartment at the Ritz Carlton.
I’ve got ranches in Grand County and Jackson County, and I’ve got plenty of place to go and play, so I’d just as soon live in a small condo.
She wants a back yard, but we’re looking at something much more … We actually picked a house out in Washington Park that we liked, but we just had no action on our house and decided to take it off the market until the market improves. Having the house on the market had nothing to do with leaving Denver. It had to do with downsizing.
CS: How are you feeling?
DS: I have had Multiple Sclerosis for 23 years. I cheated it for many, many years. The last three years, I haven’t cheated it so well, and it has become more aggressive.
I’ve lost the use of my legs and partial use of my arms and fingers.
I feel fine most of the time. I’ve never missed work because of it. But clearly the current prognosis isn’t particularly good.
The good news about Multiple Sclerosis is, it doesn’t kill you. But it does disable you. Not being able to walk or button your shirts or tie your tie — it’s troubling. But I’d rather be disabled and alive than fully able and headed to the other side.
So I count my blessings for all the things it hasn’t taken.
But it certainly has taken a lot. I look worse than I feel. I feel pretty good.
I’m still very energetic and do what I want to do. I travel if I want to travel, and get around to the newspapers and go anywhere I want to go.
I enjoy life a lot, but I just enjoy it differently without some of the physical things I once had.
It’s comical when I go on the road. I can’t button a button because my fingers don’t work.
I can’t type anymore. I can’t use a computer because my fingers don’t work. If I go to hotels where I stay regularly, I’ve always got a concierge who’ll come up and button my shirts and help me tie my tie.
If I stay in a strange hotel, I ask one of the housekeepers if she’ll button my shirts. She almost wants to call the police or something. You get all kinds of weird looks when you ask a housekeeper, “Would you come here and button my buttons for me?”
And I love it. In some places you get somebody who can’t speak English, so you have to explain how to button a shirt. And some places you get somebody who does, and they first think you’re joking. And then they understand your nod and they start laughing and everything.
One of the fun things I have in life when I travel is the look on somebody’s face when I ask them to button my shirt. So you make the best of it.
CS: You seem pretty upbeat, considering. How do you feel about the future for newspapers?
DS: I’m optimistic about the newspaper business. It will change. There will be fewer of us, and we won’t make as much money as we once did.
And the culture’s going to change. It won’t be like it was, but it’ll still be there.
I expect to do this as long as I can sit up and take nourishment.