Jim McCloskey is celebrating 20 years with The News Leader in Staunton, VA. Earlier this week, the paper did a write-up on his career with the newspaper.
Armed with some recognition and plenty of gumption, he blanketed several states with resumes.
He was politely rejected by most, and the few nibbles he did get didn’t pan out.
“That’s when I got my first lesson in the business of newspapers,” he said. Several papers responded that they would have loved to have a cartoonist, he said, but it was typically a luxury of metro papers with big budgets.
Frustrated and in a hurry to get a job so that he and his then-fiance, Lori, could marry, McCloskey retooled his resume and cover letter, mentioning his degree in graphics and fine arts and conveying that he would be happy to do pretty much any job.
In 1988, he took a job at The News Virginian in Waynesboro selling ads.
“I saw it as a way to get my foot in the door,” he said. “I would have taken a job mopping the floors at a newspaper. My plan was to do the job they asked me to do, and do cartoons on the side.”
But then-General Manager Harlan Phillips preferred McCloskey focus solely on selling ads, so he decided to interview at The News Leader with then-publisher Evarts W. Opie Jr.
“When I asked him if he would support both, there was a long pause, and he said something that made the clouds part and the sun shine: ‘We would be foolish if we didn’t utilize any talent that an employee had.'”