For the most part, Dan Moore seems quite comfortable in his role as publisher of The Henderson News. After 20 years in the business, he's no stranger to managing and maximizing the potential of a community newspaper.
At 64, he's changed career paths and moved around a surprising number of times, and is familiar with the number of different hats one must wear in order to truly be a success story in the ever-changing world of print media. But underneath his cheerful veneer and workaholic mentality, there lies the mind of a man still eager to learn.
Moore's path to The Henderson News wasn't typical. He initially worked at a car dealership in Tennessee, which he managed throughout the majority of the 90s. He was content, but he also recognized that the work load was cutting into other aspects of what he wanted in life.
"I loved selling cars and made great money," Moore said. "But I had no family life and I wanted to have a life with my family."
Moore saw his chance for a career change upon interacting with a local newspaper advertising representative who was looking for a change of his own. When the rep mentioned that Moore might be a good fit for the newspaper industry, it didn't take long for him to jump at the opportunity.
"After working 10 to 12 hour days, six days a week for 10 years, I decided I was ready for a change," Moore said.
With no college degree or even prior experience in the world of print media, he nonetheless applied to work at a startup newspaper in Tennessee and got the position. Within months, he became the leading advertiser for the publication.
"It was amazing because I was one of seven advertising people," Moore said. "These were former newspaper guys, so they had tons of experience. In six months, I became the top salesperson in the company. I loved it."
Despite his initial success, though, Moore's life took a turn when his mother-in-law fell ill and he moved with his wife to East Texas to help care for her. After she passed, he found an opening at the Mineola Moniter for an ad salesman and jumped at the chance to get back into the industry with which he'd fallen in love.
After two profitable years in Mineola, Moore moved again when he was transferred to one of the Moniter's sister papers in Lindale. And though he started out as an advertising rep there, he was quickly thrust into a new position he hadn't anticipated.
"I worked there for about three months and was promoted to publisher when the existing publisher had been relocated," Moore said. "And so that was my first publishing job. It was very interesting because at that time I had no degree and knew nothing about journalism. And now I'm the guy that's in charge."
Despite his inexperience, though, Moore quickly realized he was a quick study and that he had an aptitude for this different side of the business. And while he worked in Lindale in 2001, he realized he had the chance to get in on the ground floor of something he thought had the potential to change the industry forever: the internet.
The Lindale News and Times was the first newspaper in Texas to have its own website. And armed with a young, tech-savvy editor, Moore successfully got it up and running in the days of dial-up internet before he even had his own email address.
Since then, he has ensured that each publication that he worked with maintained a presence on the web.
Despite the Lindale paper's impressive leap into the online world, though, Moore found that it was underperforming upon his arrival. But over the next several years, he began to understand what it took to turn things around.
"I was in Lindale for about six years," Moore said. "The paper was underperforming and I was blessed to be able to turn it around and make it a very productive, very good weekly paper that still exists today."
After working in Lindale, Moore traveled around quite a bit, spending a year or two in each place before moving on to the next.
His first place of work was Bluebonnet Publishing which housed a conglomerate of newspapers in the East Texas area, but his experience with turning struggling papers into successes called him to various publications around the state.
"I started moving around quite a bit spending maybe a couple of years at each place only because of my experience of turning newspapers around," Moore said. "I've worked at dailies, I've worked at twice weeklies, I've worked at weeklies, and I've been a general manager of newspapers, I've been a publisher, I've been a sales manager."
In 2015, Moore opened the door to working with Hartman Newspapers, the owners of The Henderson News, when he applied for a publishing job at The Terrell Tribune in Terrell. Moore didn't get the position, but Hartman called him back a month later to let him know that a similar position had opened up in Alvin after the previous publisher had died.
He took the job and worked there for another two years before getting a call from the president of Hartman asking him for yet another employment adjustment.
"They asked me to move to Henderson," Moore said. "I was glad to accept because I'm from East Texas. It was like coming home."
As exciting as it was for Moore to come to Henderson, though, it also set the stage for one of his most challenging tasks to date.
As one of the largest newspapers in the Hartman network, The Henderson News was an important piece of the puzzle for the company. But it wasn't living up to its financial potential and needed to undergo some serious adjustments or risk going under.
"When I came here, one of the main things the company wanted me to do was make this newspaper profitable since that was my forte," Moore said. "As with all newspapers, we've had our challenges. The first year was a really tough year. One of the things that I was told to do was take the paper from a daily to twice a week. That was a huge challenge because we had to change a lot of things from the name to the marketing and branding and even some legal work. But we were able to take the paper and make lots of changes. It was more of an AP-style paper. My goal was to make it community news, something that you're not going to find anywhere else but here."
Moore knew that making the changes necessary to save The Henderson News would not be well-received by all. And though the paper isn't quite where Moore would like it to be yet, he is excited and optimistic about the future of the publication.
"I believe that our future is great," Moore said. "I never have been and am still not convinced that newspapers are dying. They're having to re-invent themselves. Those of us that are publishers have to be innovators, not procrastinators. I'm a very huge innovator. I'm probably one of the few papers that has a millennial editorial staff. I surround myself with people of all ages both male and female. I want people that are around me that have different ideas than I have. I want to hear their ideas and understand what they're interested in because I want to be able to reach everyone in our community. We haven't gotten there yet, but we're well on our way. I'm excited about it, and I think that we have a great team that can accomplish those goals.
"I kind of look back on this past year as a remodeling project. Sometimes, you just have to tear things apart in order to restore it. There was a lot of tearing up that needed to be done. A lot of the community didn't understand it and may still not understand it. But it was something that needed to be done in order to move forward and ensure that Henderson could have a newspaper. Because in the past year, I know of five or six daily papers that have dropped down to twice or once a week. And even several in East Texas that have closed their doors. But I'm no quitter. I was bound and determined that Henderson wasn't going to be one of those papers.
“We were going to have a vibrant and good newspaper here. Now, as with anything that you're remodeling, it takes some time to finish it. So we're still not finished. We're still working and will work for the next two or three years to get where we really want to be. I'm really proud of our progress."
Two Thousand and Eighteen was a time of great change, and at times strain on not just The Henderson News, but the newspaper industry in East Texas as a whole. The Tyler Morning Telegraph was sold and closed down their press. A similar fate awaited Kilgore, who operated another vital press in this part of the state, leaving The Henderson News' press an important commodity for newspapers in the area.
"Being the proactive person that I am, I immediately went to bat and began to do everything I could to communicate with those newspapers that were printing at those presses," Moore said. "We had a viable press here that wasn't being used to its maximum potential after we dropped from six days to two days, and so that was a huge challenge for me. I've been around the press and worked on the press, but never run it. One of the things the company wanted me to do was close it, but I talked them into allowing us to keep it. I'm glad we did because now we've added five papers that are weekly. We have a quarterly paper and we're getting ready to add a monthly paper to print. So we have taken our print operation to a whole new level and moved it into where we're one of only three operations in East Texas. We're really proud of that and other towns are contacting us now. People who may not have even known that Henderson existed now knows and I'm really happy about that."
Over the course of the last 20 years, Moore has worked at a number of different publications of all sizes and consistencies. But his favorite jobs have been the smaller weekly and semiweekly papers like The Henderson News that give him the chance to exercise the full breadth of his abilities.
"The interesting thing that I've really loved about the weekly papers is that since they're small, you get to do it all," Moore said. "I've had to learn every aspect of this business by having to do it hands on, which was very good for my career because there was nothing that I couldn't do. I have spent the last two decades since 1998 in this industry. I love it. I have a passion for it and enjoy it."
The majority of Moore's movements between jobs were motivated by promotions and monetary growth. But with only a few years left before retirement, the rejuvenation of The Henderson News has become a more substantial goal and will likely be his final big project before riding off into the sunset.
"I read a lot and studied about this industry," Moore said. "I like the variety of it. I love not just being the publisher and dealing with the management part of it, but I like going out. I have clients even today that I go work with on their marketing and advertising. I go and cover and report on things. I like doing that. The interesting thing that's caused me to stay in this career is I've always believed in this career. It's, to me, fun. If you don't like what you're doing, to me, you're not going to stay there long. The great thing is that now that I'll be 65 years old next month, I'm going to retire in Henderson. I'm not going anywhere else. I've told the company this is it, it's time for me to hang up my suitcase. And this is where I'm going to commit my time."
What keeps Moore excited about getting up each morning and coming to work in a position where unpredictability is a given and his contributions aren't always fully appreciated? It's tough for him to narrow it down to a single factor.
But perhaps his favorite moments emerge from the daily interactions with his staff and the members of the community he's dedicated to serve.
"Coming in and working with my staff," Moore said. "Helping them reach their potential. Even learning from them to help me reach my potential. I love going out and visiting with and working with the community. I love working with county and city government people. I haven't gotten to do as much of that here as I have in the past because I've been so wrapped up in the changes that we've had to make. But I love working and giving the community a good product. Keeping them informed. Giving them local news. Trying to give our faithful readers the things that they're looking for in their product and trying to give the best products that we can. I'm just a hands-on type of guy and I love every aspect of this business."