Farewell, Silver Fox
After more than 26 years, Wednesday, Nov. 8, was the last day at The Sun for managing editor Steve Peterson, aka, in this column, anyway, “The Silver Fox.”
I began missing him on Thursday, Nov. 9.
The Silver Fox was dubbed such by yours truly because of his silver hair, not because I thought he was foxy (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More important than what was on his head, however, was what was in his head, and his heart, and a management style that made him perhaps the best boss I’ve ever had.
As someone who chased crime/crashes/fires/weather nearly every day at one particular television station, I find it difficult to express how refreshing are the differences here, thanks in large part to Steve. Each Monday I’d email him a list of stories and other assignments I’d done or still had to do, which nearly always included at least one governmental meeting and often two. Sometimes, he’d ask me to look into things that turned out to be darn good features or news stories. I can’t recall him ever turning down a story idea I felt strongly about, and believe me, that’s a rarity in this business.
Steve also didn’t micromanage, which was greatly appreciated by this print and broadcast veteran of more than two decades.
As a copy editor, he was not a hacker, but rather, a surgeon with precise skills who practiced the physician’s motto of, “First do no harm.” Speaking of medical issues, I’ll risk aggravating an old rotator cuff injury by patting myself on the back when I suggest that with my stories, major surgery wasn’t usually required.
(Ouch – stupid rotator cuff!)
However, I have made my share of mistakes (and sometimes senior reporter Bob Vlach’s share, too) and Steve never raised his voice or emailed in all caps when he informed me of them. The toughest thing I can recall him saying after a couple of screw-ups in succession was, “Are you okay? Do you need some time off?”
The only thing even mildly resembling a spat between the Silver Fox and myself involved a story about a local non-profit whose board member told me about their budget, then later asked that I not print it. Under the rules of journalism, if you’re told something, you can use it unless it’s given on an “off the record” basis. Steve knew this better than I, but when I told him I might prefer to not to write the story at all, he told me, sternly for him, that I would indeed do it.
After a few seconds of pouting (in my office), I came to agree with his decision.
In nearly three-and-a-half years, that was the only disagreement that I can recall between us – and you should trust me on this one, as I don’t have to brown-nose Steve anymore.
Not that I ever did …
Steve was hardly, shall we say, promiscuous with his praise, so his occasional compliments of my work meant a great deal to me, in part because I knew he was a darn good writer.
(I find I’m using past tense when I refer to Steve – more on that later.)
Steve isn’t the proverbial warm, fuzzy type, but when I spoke to him about things that were important to me, he listened. I shared a few intimate details about my personal life with him, which I don’t recall doing with a supervisor before, and, truth be told, very few friends. I think he did the same with me.
We did so because, to borrow another phrase from “Seinfeld,” we knew such offerings would be stored “in the vault” and there’d be no excessive judgment from the listener.
I enjoyed hearing about his pre-journalism days at the Sylvania plant; he liked listening to my stories about the Navy. I’m pretty sure each of us was telling the truth.
As for this past tense thing … It was easier to write this column that way, but my friendship with the Silver Fox isn’t finished. Steve still lives in town, as do I, and tonight (Thursday, Nov. 16) we plan to get together for that beverage we never got around to enjoying together before.
Maybe in exchange for a copy of The Sun, Steve will buy me a brew. To make the deal more attractive, it’ll have my autograph beneath this column, just beneath these words: “Thanks for being a great boss – and a better friend.”