Reporters reflect on the first 15 years of NNBW
EDITOR’S NOTE: When Northern Nevada Business Weekly began publishing 15 years ago, Duane Johnson and Anne Knowles reported for the new publication. Johnson continues to report for the NNBW while Knowles is now a reporter for our sister paper, the Nevada Appeal. Here are their remembrances of the early days at the NNBW and what has changed 15 years later.
“It’s hard to believe Northern Nevada Business Weekly has been around 15 years, and I’ve been a part of just about all of it,” Reporter Duane Johnson said.
A month before the Northern Nevada Business Weekly’s first issue — Aug. 5, 2002 — Johnson began working as a reporter for the new publication and with its founding editor, John Seelmeyer.
“NNBW had some humble beginnings with staff of about half-dozen people and housed in a small office on the second floor of an office building on Smithridge Drive in Reno,” Johnson said.
The office had a limited number of phone lines and the two advertising representatives had to share a line, he said.
Besides reporting, Johnson has responsible for the NNBW’s Business Leads section throughout the newspaper’s history. He compiles such public records as bankruptcies, new business licenses, building permits, and fictitious business names. It’s a mundane but time consuming task. In the early days of the NNBW, Johnson had to drive to Carson City and outlying counties each week to get their information, which was not yet available online. The drive was longer then, too, winding through Pleasant Valley before I-580 opened a faster route.
Nevertheless, the Business Leads helped set NNBW apart from other publications in the area.
“If I ever wondered if the Business Leads section was really valuable to our readers, I had my answer one day when one of our sales reps at the time came back to the office from a lunch meeting with a potential client,” Johnson remembered. “The client had told the rep, ‘NNBW really saved me today. I was about to buy a business from this guy and just before closing the deal, I picked up a copy of your paper and found out he had just filed for bankruptcy.’”
The Business Leads have also proved to be a telling economic indicator.
“In Northern Nevada’s boom days, construction was on fire,” he said. “It seemed like every week back then we would run hundreds of building permits from various cities and counties. But once the Great Recession hit, those permits virtually disappeared as homebuilders either scaled back or were forced to shut down completely. But as the economy now appears resurgent, building activity has gradually come back.”
Anne Knowles also was reporting for the NNBW in its first couple years. Readers will still see her byline in the NNBW as she now works for the Nevada Appeal in Carson City, a sister paper to the NNBW.
“What I remember about working at NNBW is sharing an office with (Johnson) and John, and getting to know Reno because I traveled all over it to meet with companies,” she recalled in an email.
“And (I remember) that John was a great boss. I wanted to cover the Legislature in 2003 and he let me. It turned out to be a good thing because that was the session the state passed the modified business tax, the first time Nevada imposed a significant tax on businesses other than casinos.”
During the early days of the NNBW, the economy in Nevada was booming, but before it’s 10th anniversary, that changed dramatically.
The rise and fall of the economy had a dramatic effect on the NNBW internally as well.
With growth, NNBW sister ventures, including The Orange Book, a business-to-business resource guide, and Nevada Home, flourished, Johnson remembered. NNBW also experimented with several special publications of topical interest such as Women In Business, Nevada Success Stories, Building Northern Nevada and Nevada Mining.
When the economy went cold, advertising for the special sections dwindled and many were discontinued.
One special publication that has been a stable is The Book of Lists. The publication started in the late 2000s when the NNBW started running lists of various industries such as accounting firms, law firms, or construction companies, The NNBW staff decided to compile these lists into one large publication that would come out every January.
Johnson compiled those lists for a time. The NNBW now enlists a third-party company in the process.
“The Book of Lists has grown in stature every year,” he said.
At the end of 2014, the NNBW entered a time of dramatic transition after editor Seelmeyer announced that he would be retiring. At the same time, other staff members also left to pursue other career ventures.
In the interim, Johnson kept the NNBW editorial department running as new additions to the editorial staff slowly joined the NNBW.
Through its 15 years, the NNBW has moved offices four times, and is now a part of a revitalized downtown.
“About six months after NNBW’s first publication, my sister came to visit me in Reno. She had never seen an NNBW before I presented a copy. After briefly thumbing through the copy, she questioned the publication’s fate and replied, “I don’t know this paper. Are you sure this thing will last?
“Fifteen years later, it safe to say, NNBW continues to meet the challenges of the past, present and future,” Johnson said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak made it clear Wednesday night his latest directive urging as many Nevadans as can to stay home is not martial law but a plea for everyone not in a critical, essential industry to not go out and possibly spread the coronavirus.