The feeling of a startup, such as the Springfield Daily Citizen, is like lacing up your hiking boots on a crisp fall day to take that first step onto a trail you’ve never explored.
It comes with a sense of adventure and promise.
That’s the biggest change since I switched jobs Oct. 1.
It’s different for me because rarely in recent years is there good news when working for a newspaper, especially one with corporate ownership.
Reporters are laid off and are told to gather their belongings and leave. The vision of leadership extends no farther than the upcoming quarterly report.
Decisions that just kill you locally are made in a different time zone for the benefit of shareholders with little or no connection to the community.
I don’t think we’re going to make too many mistakes in launching the Springfield Daily Citizen. But when we do, at least they will be made by people who live here.
I have worked twice before with Springfield Daily Citizen CEO David Stoeffler. In fact, he hired me and my friend and colleague Jackie Rehwald in 2012 to work at the Springfield News-Leader.
David left Springfield in 2014. He returned this year at the urging of former mayor Tom Carlson to start the Citizen. Jackie and I were his first hires.
What hasn’t changed for me is that I still sit next to Jackie — with my back to her. She has a Nerf gun. When will I learn?
As the first two hires, it has been uplifting to witness the addition of staff, rather than the attrition.
Our managing editor is Brittany Meiling, who David hired away from the Los Angeles Times. Our chief development officer is Judi Kamien.
Judi actually talks to us about funding strategies. I am not accustomed to this.
Marty Walker, who was David’s real estate agent when he bought a house in Springfield this year, is our operations manager.
Shannon Cay Bowers, our news assistant, promises to deliver the best events calendar in the Ozarks.
More co-workers are coming. Their desks are waiting.
I don’t know how long it will last, but people in the community are interested in what we’re doing.
What will we be? What will we cover? How will we be different? How will we be funded?
I’ll leave it for David and Brittany to answer those questions in detail.
Our new website officially launches in mid-February, although I have already written several columns.
My job responsibilities here at the Citizen won’t be entirely different. I’m a columnist; I’ll write Pokin Around and The Answer Man. I will also do additional reporting on the broad topic of criminal justice.
Another big difference is working on a college campus.
What is ‘Freddy?’ The place we call home
The Citizen is housed in the basement of the west wing of Freudenberger House. It is a U-shaped residence hall with five stories and about 700 male and female students.
It’s the largest residence hall, by population, on campus.
I enjoy being here. I park in a lot. It’s a four-minute walk across the quadrangle to our office.
On campus, I’m easy to spot; it’s not just the white hair. I carry a red-and-white Igloo lunch pail.
Here at MSU, Freudenberger House is known as “Freddy.”
Who is Freddy? It’s Norman Freudenberger, one of several faculty members who made the move from the original State Normal School No. 4 (now known as Missouri State University) near the intersection of East Cherry Street and Pickwick Avenue to the campus on National Avenue.
That first campus opened in 1906. It moved to the new 38-acre site in January 1909, when the first building, Academic Hall, was completed. Academic Hall was later renamed in honor of the school’s first president, William T. Carrington.
Freudenberger taught Latin and other foreign languages from 1907 to 1952. He was department head for many years. He died in 1961 at 83.
I recently visited his portrait, which hangs in a conference room on the first floor of Freddy.
A plaque in the building says Freddy was constructed in 1958. It was the school’s first men’s residence hall, and it was expanded in 1963.
The top story, the fifth, is allegedly haunted by a female ghost known as the “Dorm Mom.” David is trying to get her to write a “Days Gone By” column.
Perhaps the most unusual piece of Freddy history involves the nearby McDonald Arena, built in 1940.
Strange but true: McDonald Arena once had an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool extending from its north entrance toward Freddy. The pool had a towering water slide.
According to the book “Daring to Excel: The First 100 Years of Southwest Missouri State University” pool construction started in 1935 but wasn’t finished until 1942.
The book states: “Once completed, it became a popular resort for students, faculty and staff and their families during the summer months.”
The pool was closed in the early 1990s because it was falling apart and too expensive to maintain. It sat empty for a while before it was removed and filled to make room for new underground pipes for heating and air conditioning.
As for Freddy, our basement newsroom has some quirks of its own. The main hallway has overhead pipes that I believe are related to the plumbing and air conditioning. The pipes are in part shielded by wood panels that are in place to prevent condensation from dripping down on us when the AC eventually will run on hot days.
The greatest oddity is a plastic bucket that hangs from the pipes at the threshold of Managing Editor Brittany Meiling’s office. It looks like a prank in the making.
These new surroundings are all part of the transition to my new job.
As I said, this transition to the Citizen feels like I’m starting a hike in autumn in the Ozarks.
I expect it to be challenging, but I anticipate the views along the way will be amazing.