Yost Finds Rhino As Job Of Last Resort
October 20, 2011What a long strange trip it's been.
– Jerry Garcia
I feel kind of bad because it's The Rhinoceros Times' 20th anniversary and I didn't get it anything. If that happened with your wife, you'd be in a whole lot of trouble. (I mean, you know – if you hadn't already been divorced by then.)
But, actually, I've only been here nine years: I arrived in early December 2002, and this is really the first anniversary The Rhino has ever celebrated since I've been here; and the first anniversary is paper – so this column, which will be on paper, can count as my anniversary gift.
The Rhinoceros Times is a publication like no other, and, looking back now over the past decade, it's funny to remember how I got here: Namely, I was dragged here kicking and screaming.
Before I worked here, I used to write for the now defunct Triad Business News, which was run by the High Point Enterprise. At the Business News, I was relegated to writing stodgy business stories, and, if I ever tried to do anything creative, management stomped down mightily and immediately on me the moment I suggested anything interesting. They did so in order to make absolutely certain that nothing remotely creative ever snuck into their paper.
While at the Business News, I would periodically get calls from The Rhino asking if I wanted to come in for an interview to see about coming to work here.
Then, on Halloween morning, 2002, High Point Enterprise management called all dozen or so Business News employees into a meeting and told us the publication had been bought by a competitor, and they said the only thing the new owner wanted to keep was our list of subscribers. We were all terminated and we had to clean out our desks as soon as the meeting was over because the security code to the Enterprise building would be changed at 5:30 that day. They told us the last issue of the paper was on the stands – oh, and please don't let the door hit us on the way out.
Well, some of the sales women in the meeting were openly sobbing and others just had looks of disgust, and the people conducting the mass-firing started handing out a bunch of forms for us to fill out, but I just got up and walked out of the meeting. I walked straight to my car and I realized I really wanted to go to Chapel Hill that night to celebrate Halloween on Franklin Street with my friends – and now there was certainly nothing in the world stopping me.
It took about 20 minutes to drive home. On the way, I called Justin Catanoso at The Business Journal and – in a conversation that I feel certain he still to this day kicks himself about – he told me they didn't have any openings.
Then, while still in the car, I remembered that The Rhino Times had shown a great interest in hiring me, and I called and asked to speak to John Hammer, and the conversation went something very close to this:
Me: Mr. Hammer, they just shut down Triad Business News and fired everyone including me.
John: Well, why don't you come work for us?
He told me to come in sometime the next week and we would work out the details.
The word that Triad Business News was shutting down was already spreading, and, as I pulled in my driveway in Greensboro, my phone rang. It was former News & Record reporter Carla Bagley. She said, "Scott, I'm so sorry to hear what happened," and I said, "Oh, it's OK; I just got another job." And she was like, "What?"
I've been about 30 times happier at The Rhino than I ever was at that sad place that, to this day, reminds me of some sort of twisted combination of the work place in Office Space and the office Tom Hanks works in at the start of Joe Versus the Volcano.
My concern is that, after 20 years of being around, people might take The Rhino for granted and forget how rare and special The Rhino Times is. If you think about it, it is utterly astonishing that there's a weekly family-owned free newspaper you can pick up anywhere in town and, every week, you get, at zero cost, writing by world-renowned writers like Orson Scott Card, who in many fan circles is an almost mythical literary figure, and Jerry Bledsoe, who wrote two of the great American crime books: Bitter Blood and Blood Games.
And I'd also say that the reporting of John Hammer and Paul Clark, in terms of interest, depth and news worthiness, is of a caliber that's highly unusual anywhere in the country.
Other cities don't have a Rhino Times, and the citizens there don't know what government and school officials are up to, and there's greater corruption and injustice in those places because of that void in the news.
People tell me the same thing all the time: "Thank God for The Rhino Times." And I always know what they're about to say next, but I always ask them what they mean anyway because I like hearing it. That's when they say: "If it weren't for The Rhino, we'd have no idea what was going on."
I always say that everyone reads The Rhino. One time I wrote a column about how the word "gullible" wasn't in the dictionary and I got 400 responses.
The Rhino Times sent me to Hawaii, has let me write extensively about penguins, and it let me post the commissioners pictures on Am I Hot.com and write about it. And my bosses were pleased, rather than alarmed, when I made it past federal-level security agents and crashed an illegal closed meeting held by District 13 Rep. Brad Miller. And I could go on and on …
Also, at The Rhino, ties are looked down upon, and we virtually never have meetings.
At the Business News, you were always expected to wear a tie and be in your cubicle, but, when I arrived at The Rhino, there was a pool table in the lobby and, if you got tired of writing, you could go play some pool with one of the very hot sales women.
At the Business News, the employee handbook actually said – among many other amazing things – that falling asleep at the office was "cause for termination."
At The Rhino, there's no employee handbook and, if you were sleepy, we had a couch for that very purpose. If you laid down for a nap, our office rule was that everyone in the office from the bosses on down had to be very, very quiet so as not to wake you.
And my bosses have always backed me up when I've had to explain Scott's Night Out to the IRS, and when I've had to explain in the IRS audit why buying shots for a cheerleader at a rooftop bar at 1:30 a.m. is a perfectly legitimate business expense.
So anyway, that's the place where I want to work.
There's no other publication in the country like The Rhino Times and you can thank John and William Hammer for it.
The first week I began work here, John took me and a few other employees to lunch at Cafe Europa, and, nine years later, I still remember what he said our mission was: "to try and make this small corner of the world a better place."
For this strange, wonderful and very important publication, that's been bringing you the news and fighting injustice and corruption for two decades, all the credit should go to John and William Hammer, and I say that for two reasons: (1) because it's true and they deserve the recognition at this 20-year-milestone, and, (2) in hopes that making that statement in print will keep me from being named as a plaintiff in the many ongoing current and future lawsuits against the publication.
Happy anniversary, Rhino Times. God bless The Rhino; may the Good Lord shine His light down upon it and may The Rhinoceros Times keep shining its light upon the community – and may the run continue for, at the very least, another 20 years.