Oh, can’t you see, you belong to me? How my poor heart aches with every step you take.
Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you.
“Every Breath You Take” – The Police.
For several years now, the former publisher and editor of The (Hillsboro) Times-Gazette has demonstrated an obsessive need to target me (always by childish nicknames or sarcastic descriptions) and The Times-Gazette in general with endless insults and put-downs. To be fair, it started even before I arrived.
It’s an odd thing. As I recall, he quit his job here one day, and the following week announced he had a new newspaper, one he could call his very own. And yet, his focus on The Times-Gazette remains constant, as though part of him wishes he had never left. He can’t help watching every step we take, every move we make, and then taking to the keyboard to criticize us at every turn.
Just last week, he produced yet another column complaining again that he has not received a response to a public records request from the city of Hillsboro. Once more, he dragged The Times-Gazette and me into his fray, wringing his hands over the fact that the document he requested was long ago released to The Times-Gazette.
Then, he refers to me and/or The Times-Gazette as “one of the mayor’s constant apologists and business tenants,” implying, as he often does, that this newspaper and I are in cahoots with the mayor.
That is remarkable coming from him. How often has he boasted in print lately that he is a campaign donor to the mayor’s opponent? He also promises to make future donations. Then he accuses me of favoritism. Let that sink in for a bit.
The other day I came across the last edition of the Hillsboro Press Gazette, before it became The Times-Gazette. It’s dated Oct. 31, 1996. Inside is a column by the editor at the time, who mentions lessons he had learned so far. He wrote, “I also learned that a columnist should never contribute to any politician or political party.”
He is free to violate as many rules or guidelines as he wants. As he often reminds people with whom he quarrels, he owns his newspaper and he’ll do what he wants. God bless him. But can he do what he wants while just ignoring the newspaper he left behind? Apparently not.
You may have noticed by now his life story being produced in chapter form. I guess I could take it as a positive sign that in the latest telling of his life he does manage to ignore me, briefly, in regard to my role in his hiring at two different newspapers. According to his telling, as editor at both papers I apparently just walked into the newsrooms in Hillsboro and later Portsmouth one day to find him hard at work, as if the stork had brought him.
But no, my presence is eventually noted as being one of the people (without being directly named, but I’ll confess I was one of them) who, more than 20 years ago at the Portsmouth Daily Times, couldn’t muster the, as he puts it, “intestinal fortitude” to make it to work from a measly mile away after a snowstorm. It’s the type of dig he cannot resist, even after more than two decades.
On the other hand, he recounts, he bravely traveled 53 miles through snow, ice, and maybe Dante’s Inferno, too. He still laughs about those who didn’t make it, he tells us.
Unfortunately, I do not have the knowledge necessary to understand what makes him believe that his own accomplishments are only sufficiently enhanced if he compares them in writing with the failings he perceives in others.
I won’t insult him in the same juvenile fashion he regularly uses to describe me and The Times-Gazette, which he refers to by putting the word “newspaper” in quotes to suggest it’s really not a newspaper, or referring to me now as a “so-called newspaperman” and similar slurs that seem to make him happy these days.
Back in 1993, when he let me know he was interested in getting out of Hillsboro and making more money, I hired him in Portsmouth (after I fired the person he replaced, a firing he did not complain about as he does if firings happen today). He did a good job there as part of a great staff, and over the years he turned his talents into a good career. To be sure, there are things I have admired about him over the years, personally and professionally.
But today, as the owner of his own newspaper, he has apparently decided that bullying and rudeness are the means to accomplish his ends, and knocking our newspaper in his paper (and allowing others to do so, too) is the way to make his appear superior.
As is probably clear, I was not always so poorly regarded by him. As recently as August 2010, in yet another recounting of his own history, he was quoted in his new newspaper as saying, “Gary Abernathy and Phil Roberts had the confidence in my abilities to give me a chance. I’ll always be grateful to both of them.”
He went on to say, “My real education in the newspaper business developed in Portsmouth. I was so fortunate to work in a newsroom with established veterans like Gary Abernathy, Jay Brushart, Jim Joseph, Chris Chamis, Paul F. Nelson, Steve Triplett, Rick Cundiff, Susan Schwartz, the late J.S. Moses, Ted Cox and so many others. What a team we had.” There was no mention then of his colleagues lacking intestinal fortitude.
Isn’t one newspaper enough to worry about? I know it is for me, and I promise to keep my focus here. I apologize upfront for addressing the subject at all, but we have let it go by mostly unanswered for a long time.
I hope that someday he finally moves on, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that he can.
Gary Abernathy is Publisher and Editor of The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, which is a sister newspaper of the Wilmington News Journal. Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.