James Shearer Column: For David

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JAMES SHEARER
Spare Change News

For David

Just a little over two years ago, this old bulldog of a newspaper seemed headed for the scrap heap. We had been through so much over the last few years and when the recession hit, it seemed as if Spare Change had fought its last battle.

I remember sitting in our offices in the basement of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, having just told our editor at the time, Emily, that I had to let her go. I was not only serving as Board President but was also interim Executive Director as well, and honestly, folks, I was done. I was out of ideas and hope, and I sat there thinking, “Well, it was a good run.”

The only thing I had left was an idea from our consultant, Debra, who had put me in touch with one of her grad students, a young man I had met a few times when speaking in one of Debra’s classes at Suffolk University. She seemed to think that he would make a good editor.

His name was David Jefferson. David was a soft-spoken, seemly, well-mannered kid; my first thought was, would he be able to fit in with such an unruly bunch as we sometimes can be? But he was likable enough, and it wasn’t like I had a ton of options to consider. I had taken plenty of risks before in this organization. “What’s one more?,” I thought. “May as well go down swinging.”

David seemed excited and eager to get started. He met our long-time layout person, Brendan, and some of our writers, and proceded to get to work. And wham! David’s first issue got rave reviews from both readers and vendors alike. He also got along quite well with most of the vendors, which is always a plus.

After a couple of issues, I felt that this was going to be a good fit. Little did I know at the time that David had almost no experience at being an editor of any kind. But he managed to pull through.

There were other things I noticed about David. His quiet leadership, a certain kind of confidence; he was able to see promise in others that many of us couldn’t see. And he was very bright. After some time I began to see him as more than just an editor. I saw him as a person who could get us out of this tailspin we were in, because we were still in it.

David had ideas, ideas that I liked, quite frankly. Early on, I began to whisper to people that he should be the next Executive Director. It took some wrangling, but he got the position. Again, he took to it like a duck to water, helping us to re-establish our ties to North American Street Newspapers Association, helping to expand the paper to the western part of the state, putting together a resource guide, etc.

There were failures, but they were outweighed by his many successes. He was a little too easygoing at times, but not everyone needs to be a hardass like me.

As David leaves us, he leaves an organization that is far healthier than it was when he came, and as we begin our 20th year, we are poised for great success. He is a huge reason why. He will humbly tell you that he didn’t do much and he had a lot of help, but I beg to differ. I wish him well and know that he holds a special place at this address. Take care, my friend.

JAMES SHEARER is board president of the Homeless Empowerment Project and a co-founder of Spare Change News.

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