Chronicle editor has hands full
Let’s spend a few minutes this Monday discussing our hometown newspaper, the Citrus County Chronicle.
You may have seen that the Chronicle has a new editor, Jim Gouvellis. Former editor Jeff Bryan is now working with Habitat for Humanity of Citrus County.
Gouvellis, who has spent many years working for Florida community newspapers, is the first editor since Gerry Mulligan -- his Chronicle career stated over 40 years ago -- who didn’t rise up through the Chronicle family.
Some will see this as a plus: Gouvellis doesn’t come with the Chronicle baggage. Others will see a minus: The Chronicle’s new editor is unfamiliar with the community.
Both sides have merit. I suggest we give the guy a chance and provide as much encouragement as possible.
Because we need the Chronicle to succeed. We all do. I don’t want to think of Citrus County without the Chronicle.
The Chronicle stopped giving me a paycheck over a year ago but I remain a fierce loyalist. I’m a subscriber, and every day I walk the quarter-mile driveway of Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson to grab my newspaper from the tube.
That’s not to say I read it every day because I don’t. Most days I don’t get through it at all. I don’t pay attention to most editorials but I read the letters and Sound Off because they’re a somewhat raw view of the community. I’m always looking for the unfiltered view and Sound Off provides that.
Mulligan hired me when he was editor. I was not his first choice. I applied and interviewed for a reporter’s position that he thought was opening up. Turns out it didn’t and the opening was for a copy editor of which I had, approximately, zero experience.
Finally, he offered me the job, though it wasn’t exactly a wow moment. Here’s what he told me: “We have people who are more experienced than you, but none are as persistent.”
I had the fortune of working for seven Chronicle editors over 34 years: Mulligan, Jim Hunter, Ken Melton, Chris Wessel, Charlie Brennan, Mike Arnold and Jeff Bryan. I had my highs and lows with all of them, but I always considered Gerry my true editor.
Coming from a small daily in northern Michigan, I thought I knew community newspapering but Gerry brought it to a whole new level. The yin-yang relationship between the Chronicle and community is unlike anything I’ve seen. One doesn’t succeed without the other.
Gerry had a way of explaining this to us and sometimes it wasn’t a discussion, if you get my drift. One day — we call it the faucet speech — Gerry grabbed a handful of editors and hauled us into the men’s bathroom where he turned the faucet on full blast.
Our job, he said, was like this faucet. The community wants something in the paper, we get it in the paper. Stop plugging it up.
When Paxton Media Group bought the Chronicle in early summer 2021, we knew it was just a matter of time before Gerry retired, whether on his terms or not. When it was announced on a Tuesday that Gerry would be retiring three days later, I had a feeling my days were short as well.
The truth is, not all editors like the kind of writing I do. Some spoil for a fight, but others would just as soon life remain calm as possible. Their ideal day does not include politicians in the office, yelling about something I was attached to.
A few days into retirement I sat with Gerry outside the YMCA in Lecanto. At the time I had no clue what was coming next.
I told him, “Gerry, I was your personal reporter for over 30 years. You liked a certain type of story, I liked writing a certain type of story.”
Here’s what he told me:
“You need to use the skills and experience from the Chronicle to help the community.”
There. I had it. Marching orders from my editor. A few weeks later Just Wright Citrus was born and we’ve been going at it ever since, me trying to help my community with a few words each day.
You see, at Gerry Mulligan's Chronicle it was community or nothing. From many talks with Trina Murphy, his successor, it's all community to her as well.
Fortunately, it looks like the new guy understands that.
This is what Gouvellis wrote on his LinkedIn page: “I am proud and humbled that a paper once edited by legendary Florida newspaperman Gerry Mulligan has given me the opportunity to lead its newsroom.”
I truly wish Jim Gouvellis success. We all should share in that. The best job in Citrus County — other than publisher of Just Wright Citrus — is Chronicle editor.
Citrus County can’t wait to see what he has in store.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.