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Goodman announces retirement

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By Julian Eure
Managing Editor

Sunday, July 28, 2019

If there’s one thing Mike Goodman knows after more than four decades in the newspaper business, it’s that things don’t stay the same very long. Every day there’s something new.

Goodman’s four decades at The Daily Advance are certainly a testament to that. How the newspaper is produced, how it looks, where it’s printed, when and how it’s delivered to readers — all have changed significantly since he was first hired as a copyeditor at the paper in 1978.

And now Goodman — The Daily Advance’s editor for the past 37 years and its publisher the past five — is preparing for what will likely be the last change he’ll see at the paper. He announced recently to staff that he plans to retire at the end of August.

“A lot of things aligned that just seemed to make retirement look right,” Goodman said in an interview on Friday, explaining his decision. “The timing was good from the standpoint of my age — I’m 67 — and the fact I’m now in my 42nd year here. We’re also moving to a new building. So my retiring now works out well because it allows a fresh start for the people who will be working there.”

Goodman was referring to The Daily Advance’s planned move from its current building at the corner of Water and Church streets to the McPherson Center shopping plaza on Ehringhaus Street. The newspaper plans to be in its new office space by the middle of next of month.

Goodman also noted that he and his wife, Martha, have been talking about finally getting to do some things they’ve put off because he was still working. Martha is already retired from a career as a school counselor.

“I have some things I want to do that I feel like I’m physically in good shape to do,” he said. “Being able to retire now ... while I’m still able to do those things is one of the main reasons to do it now.”

In his long tenure at The Daily Advance, Goodman has worked for five different newspaper owners. His current boss, Robin L. Quillon, president of Adams Publishing Group Eastern North Carolina, said Goodman has exercised “a steady hand” as The Daily Advance’s publisher and “will be greatly missed” by the company.

“Mike’s dedication to excellence in journalism is unparalleled,” Quillon said. “When speaking to him, you see it in his eyes just how much passion he has for the newspaper business. I bet if you would cut him, he’d bleed ink. We wish him nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

Goodman said the thing he’s enjoyed the most about working for a newspaper also happens to be one of its greatest challenges: finding something new every day to inform people about.

“It’s like having a fresh opportunity every day to get out there and do something new for people, to give them something that they don’t know, that’s a surprise to them or that they didn’t know the day before,” he said.

Goodman said he still finds it inspiring to provide readers with information they can use in their everyday lives.

“You have a chance to make a difference every day,” he said. “It may not be any big difference, but sometimes it may be. The obligation on you that people are there, looking forward to what you do, that they depend on you to do it ... is inspiring too.”

Asked about changes he’s seen over 42 years, Goodman says technology — specifically how the newspaper is produced — is the biggest.

“When I started in the business there were just standard typewriters. Now we’re writing stories on cellphones,” he said.

Goodman said The Daily Advance’s staffing has also changed over the years — resembling almost something of a curve.

“When I first came here, we had seven people in the news department,” he said. “We have grown to have as many as about 16-17 people. Now we’re down almost to the original number when I first came.”

One thing that’s changed for the better, he said, is the breath of the newspaper’s news coverage.

“I think the extensiveness of the coverage has been one of the biggest things I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” he said.

Goodman credits that to the staff he’s hired over the years.

“There’s a lot of skill and professionalism in our newsroom,” he said. “Hiring good people, getting good people and letting them do what they’re capable of doing has made this newspaper very successful in covering our area. We’ve just grown so much as far as the quality of our coverage and the professionalism of the staff and really being able to be an influence in the lives of our readers.”

Having influence and being influential are two goals Goodman says he set for the paper — goals he believes the paper has achieved.

“I think this newspaper is really respected in what we do,” he said. “I think we are listened to ... and that we are a relevant voice in this area.”

Goodman also believes the newspaper has done a good job of “being a representative of people’s interests and values.” Readers and advertisers have responded positively to the paper’s efforts because “they sense the value of being a part of what we do here,” he said.

Goodman said The Daily Advance has produced plenty of memorable stories over the past 40 years. One he’s particularly proud of is the newspaper’s coverage of race relations in the 1980s, coverage he believes eventually helped both Elizabeth City’s and Pasquotank County’s governments switch from an election system that was preventing minority candidates from getting elected to one that now elects minority candidates routinely, including to city mayor.

“Helping that issue get an airing here was important for this newspaper,” he said. “The former voting system was not as supportive of getting black people into politics. It needed to be changed and I think the newspaper and its coverage tried to make that point, tried to get out the word to people ... that this is not a system that could or should continue and that needed changes ... to be more inclusive.”

Goodman also is proud of the newspaper’s role in championing economic development in the region.

“Our coverage has been part of a community and regional effort to try to change the lifestyle of people here,” he said. “I knew when I came here that this was not a wealthy region. ... There seemed to be more poverty here, more need.”

Goodman believes it was important for the newspaper to cover issues like poverty and economic development, “to make sure those things were front and center, and that we gave them the type of coverage that they needed to make sure our readers knew what was going on.”

He says the region still needs more resources and is “still trying to catch up” to places with larger tax bases and better-funded local governments.

“But I’ve seen a lot of progress here. I’d say this area has progressed over 40 years,” he said.

Goodman is also proud of a series of stories the newspaper produced over a decade ago that resulted in a second-place award in public service from the N.C. Press Association. The newspaper won the award in 2006 for its coverage of questions about conflicts of interest and spending at what was then the Northeast North Carolina Economic Development Partnership in Edenton.

“We covered that issue over about three years or so and under a lot of duress from people who didn’t agree with what our coverage was saying,” Goodman said. “We took some heat from quite a few people, including some significant and powerful people in the area, while we were covering that story.”

A state audit of the Partnership’s finances eventually found that the taxpayer-funded agency’s top officials had been paying its employees bonuses equal to their salaries. Bonuses also had been paid to the agency’s consultants, even though they didn’t work directly for the agency.

“It turned out in the end that we were on it, that we had it right from the beginning about what was going on at the Partnership, and that some of the individuals who were involved there needed more scrutiny,” he said.

Pursuing the story didn’t win the newspaper any popularity awards, particularly with the local business community. However, following the story where it eventually led — the resignation of the Partnership’s executive director and tighter scrutiny of the agency’s spending — proved to be the right call, Goodman said.

“It took a lot of courage and persistence to do that,” he said. “We stuck with it and it turned out to be the right decision. And it was rewarded by the state press association.”

Asked if he has any regrets as he prepares to step away, Goodman said “no major ones jump out.”

“You can look back at how the newspaper covered certain things,” he said. “We make mistakes. We run corrections. We sometimes don’t ask all the questions that we need to ask. Maybe we don’t always get everything right in a story the first time.”

But all those things are part of what still is a “very human-driven business,” he said. “People aren’t perfect and newspapers aren’t going to be perfect either.”

If he has a regret it’s the large amount of time the newspaper required him to spend away from his family over the years.

“Our families probably get left out, they sometimes feel second place to what we do because it’s such a consuming business,” he said. “That’s one of the things I hope to make up in retirement, is being able to be there for family.”

In retirement, Goodman said he and wife Martha plan to take some train trips enjoy other travel. He also has what he estimates are about “two years worth” of house projects to complete.

He also hopes to remain an active citizen.

“I want to pay attention to what’s going on in the community,” he said. “I can’t see myself totally out of what’s going on. ... I have a stake in what happens in the area.”