An Excerpt from the Book:
“Clarity in all forms of communication
is critical to success”
Jeff Fister has spent his entire career working in communication media in one form or another. Starting in 1989, he ran the West End Word, telling the stories of the local community and their businesses. Shortly after that, he expanded to local interest books under the “Virginia Publishing” label. This was followed by booklets for art fairs, house tours, and other community publications. He has served on numerous boards and is still active with engaging communities at the local level.
I declared four different majors in college. In the second semester of my senior year, I started writing for the campus newspaper. After my first article was published, I was hooked. It is powerful to hold something that is in print. This led to some part-time writing gigs for the Suburban Journals and the old St. Louis Globe Democrat, as well as various editing tasks when they were needed.
I realized that the journalist’s path was a difficult one, and not particularly conducive to family life. So I pivoted: shortly out of college, I got a job as a PR spokesman for McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, and later the Space Division in Huntington Beach, California. I developed an ability to tell a story, whether there was good news or bad: there were those days when the rockets didn’t make it off the launch pad and people wanted to know why. Corporate PR certainly could have been a career path for me, but it was hard for me to hang my hat on press releases and sound bites; I wanted to get into a business that had a more physical product.
My family started a company called “Virginia Broadcasting,” which was named for our mother; we owned radio stations in some of the smaller markets in Illinois and Missouri (Washington, Ottawa, Salem); through these connections, I heard that the West End Word was for sale. Although I had limited interest in the ephemeral world of radio, I was extremely interested in a small community newspaper: these publications are woven into the neighborhoods and the establishments they serve. I wanted to work with small businesses to see what made them tick; to understand and focus their message; and to tell the local story.
Virginia Broadcasting purchased the West End Word in 1989. For about five years, I ran the publishing division while my dad and brothers ran the radio end of the business. Although I enjoyed the writing, and was good at it, running the newspaper became my passion: directing the paper has more impact than writing a single article. In the mid-1990’s, my family sold off the radio stations, and I retained the newspaper under a new company, “Virginia Publishing.”
Through the newspaper, I got to meet a lot of interesting people: Jeff Kimbrell was one of McAvoy Realty’s primary sellers for a number of years. He looked like he stepped off the set of “Gone with The Wind” and had a southern charm about him that served him well in the real estate business. He certainly charmed me: shortly after I started with the paper, he gave me a full tour of one of the signature homes on Hortense Place. It was my first real exposure to the CWE. Somewhat naively, I followed up with an article titled “Jeffrey Kimbrell IS Hortense Place.” It turns out that he did not even own that house. Of course, the residents let me know that I got it wrong.
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