April 1, 2014
My PRSA career began on March 28, 1994. Adam Shell, the newly named editor-in-chief of Tactics, hired me as a news editor to help launch the inaugural issue of the paper that July.
I remember bits and pieces of that Monday. I wore the one nice tie that I owned. Someone posted “Welcome John Elsasser” on the PRSA sign in the lobby. Adam came out to greet me. Then, he took me into the office to my desk.
The first thing that I noticed about my cubicle: There wasn’t a computer, but there was a phone. He explained that I would eventually have a computer, but not yet. I plopped down at the empty desk and went about learning how to use the phone while trying not to look longingly at the person sitting next to me with a nice Mac.
Everyone around me looked really busy. I picked up on that vibe and examined the phone even more carefully. “So you dial 9 to get an outside line,” I said to anyone who thought that I might be slacking off on the first day.
Later, there were the usual HR briefings as well as meetings and brainstorming sessions where we went over possible layouts for Tactics. I never made a phone call that day.
At 5 p.m., Adam said that I could go home. As if on cue, everyone in the department stood up and clapped as a way to congratulate me on the first day.
Within a few days I received my own computer — a glorified word processor. I’d type my articles on this machine and print out the copy. When Adam was away from his desk, I’d re-key the document into his Mac. Fortunately, this hilariously inefficient system lasted just a few weeks before I had my own Mac.
Looking back, the biggest challenge that I had was adjusting to a 9-5 work environment. For the previous five years, I worked as a reporter for a variety of newspapers as well as the city magazine in Columbus, Ohio. While I kept office hours, it was common for me to be out late covering meetings and writing on deadline. I’d show up the next day around noon.
I recently found Adam’s notes from our job interviews. He thought I was an excellent candidate for the position, though he had one concern. From his notes: “Perhaps too progressive. Might not be happy in biz-reporting setting.”
Twenty years later, I can say that I have been very happy in this setting.