Steve Steiner: Back in the Local Journalism Saddle and Ready to Ride
Last updated 4/8/2020 at 5:12pm
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: We are so glad Steve Steiner accepted our offer to become executive editor of the new BartowNews.net. We are starting this publication near the first anniversary of our first online site, LakeWalesNews.net. Steve is so committed to providing this important community service to Bartow that he's starting out as a volunteer. We hope to provide him some compensation soon as the economy improves and we enlist sponsors and advertisers. When you read this story about his award-winning journalism career and busy life we know you'll agree we made the right choice. Please send news tips to him at [email protected]
Returning to journalism was not in my plans after my association with The Polk County Democrat came to an end. The paper, under a new publisher, laid off its news staff at the end of May 2016, save its managing editor, Jeff Roslow (who sadly passed away this past October).
We reporters were offered to continue our association on a freelance basis, and I was the only one who took up the offer. (Two others also joined me, but they were already freelancers.)
I also made the move to Winter Haven later that year when the then-publisher decided it was not financially feasible to remain in Bartow.
In late 2017, the then-publisher shifted gears and decided the current model, relying solely on freelancers, was costing too much,so decided to hire one full- and one part-time reporter.
Although I put in my bid, I was not selected. Instead, I sought out and often was offered freelance assignments with other publications. However, after a few months I realized I actually was enjoying being away from journalism.
For one thing, I wasn't waking up in the middle of the night after having a nightmare that tomorrow I had three articles to write and I hadn't started any of them. This nightmare grew in frequency the past several months prior to no longer being associated with the newspaper.
With that realization that I enjoyed not having deadlines, I stopped seeking or accepting writing offers.
Also, after leaving the newspaper, I then began volunteering at the Bartow Church Service and in the autumn of 2018 became a staff member, working in the thrift store, where I still am.
DEMISE OF THE POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT
Many Bartow residents were not at all happy over losing its hometown paper, and over the following several months, people kept approaching me and Jeff Roslow about starting a new newspaper. Nothing ever came of it once the topic of financing was broached.
Thus it was a surprise when Chevon Baccus and Drew Truitt reached out to me, wanting to gauge my interest. I was intrigued, yet also ambivalent. Did I still have the "taste" for it; more so, did I still have the "chops" for it? Attending the upcoming Bartow City Commissioner meeting provided the "yes" answer.
As a side note, in January 2019, I was contacted by the owner and publisher of the Lincoln Times-News (in Lincolnton, N.C.), where I had been the managing editor from 2005-2007, and asked if I would come back. Appealing as it was to be asked, I eventually turned down the offer. Not only did I not want to leave Bartow, I was also engaged and the wedding was three months away on April 6.
My interest as a career in journalism began in fifth grade, and by the time I graduated high school I was just he co-editor of the school paper.
After my freshman year in college, I dropped out and was hired as a copyboy for The Paterson News, in New Jersey. But the job only lasted a year, as I returned to college, but did not finish.
It would not be until 1985 when I returned to journalism, as a reporter for an oil industry publication. My "beat" was covering the New York Commodities Market. In 1987, I moved to Houston, Texas, where I covered the petrochemicals market.
After a year in Houston, I moved to Hickory, NC and went to work for an advertising agency. It would not be until the mid-1990s, and several other jobs and careers, before I returned to journalism, as an editor for the Statesville Record and Landmark. I was there seven years.
I then moved on to become the managing editor in Lincolnton, which was followed by a short stint with the DeSoto Times, in Hernando, Mississippi. From there I took over as the managing editor of the News of Orange County (Hillsborough, NC), followed by becoming the editor of the Elkin Tribune and Yadkin Ripple, both in North Carolina.
Because of health issues and the fact my marriage had ended, I left journalism in 2009. However, it was not a complete breakaway. After several months I began searching for another newspaper position, but not necessarily as an editor. Part of the reason for that was I had wearied of dealing with reporters whose egos far exceeded their capabilities. So when I was offered the position as a reporter in Bartow, I accepted and became a member of the newsroom on May 26, 2010. (Interestingly, it was only two or three days later in 2016 that I was laid off, along with the other reporters.
In the time I was with the newspaper, then owned by Suncoast Media, at various times I also worked at its sister publications, The Lake Wales News and Your Haines City Herald.
LIFE OUTSIDE JOURNALISM
As many who know me and follow me on Facebook, I recently celebrated the first year of marriage to My Wanda (she calls me her "My Steven." Because of our age difference, I'm 20 years older, she also calls me her "Mantique.")
We met while taking group ballroom dance lessons, and after awhile, I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she would be interested in being my dance partner. It didn't happen immediately, and after a few miscommunications, the latter one leading to a promise on her part that she would kick me in the shins, we realized we love(d) each other, and so we wed.
Outside of ballroom dancing, my main interests are, with one exception, related primarily to the performing arts, as I have an extensive background in theater.
The one exception is cooking; actually, while I enjoy cooking, my true passion is making New York deli-style pickles, and I am toying with the idea of turning pickle making from a hobby into a sideline.
However, as for becoming a purveyor of pickles, that may just have to wait. Right now, it's time - actually, way too long past time - for the return of a "newspaper" to Bartow.
As people who know me will attest, I am fond of saying, "Bartow is the hometown I didn't grow up in, but wish I had."
My heart is filled with gratitude being offered the privilege and opportunity to join BartowNews.net.