Urgent Matters

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For a little more than three years, I have had a dual role at Penton Media, serving as the editor of both Urgent Communications and its sister publication, Fire Chief. Last Friday, we shipped the July issue of Fire Chief to the printer, marking the end of my tenure as that publication's editor. I have mixed feelings about this, because I have long had a soft spot for the fire service and, during the last three years, had grown quite fond of the magazine and those that it serves.

It started when I was a child. One of my cousins — actually, my mother's first cousin — was a Chicago firefighter, stationed on the city's Far Northwest Side. It just so happened that his station was on a direct line between our home and that of my grandparents. So, very often we would stop by to see our cousin, who allowed us to climb all over the trucks, sit in the cabs and try on the helmets. It didn't matter a bit that they were a gazillion sizes too big — there was nothing cooler than a firefighter, and we were in an actual station wearing the gear that they wore.

In fact, I thought firefighting was so cool, I decided that would be my chosen field. Then fate, in the form of my parents, intervened. My folks were blue collar and were of the firm belief that college was the path to a better life. No one in my family ever had attended college to that point, so off I went. Unfortunately, no colleges — at least none that I could afford — offered fire-service curriculum at the time, so I studied journalism.

But the dream still hadn't died. When I was in my mid-30s, I seriously considered chucking my career as a journalist to become a firefighter. A nearby village was taking applicants, and I would have squeaked by just under the wire regarding the age restriction. Unfortunately, that particular village had a vision requirement that I couldn't meet. That's when the dream finally died.

A decade and a half later, fate took another ironic twist when I was offered the chance to become Fire Chief's editor. If I couldn't be a firefighter, writing about the fire service surely was the next best thing. Handling both publications wasn't easy. It took a lot of juggling and long hours. But nothing worth doing ever is easy, and this certainly was worth doing.

Nevertheless, a company is very much like a fire or police department, in the sense that one goes where one is needed. For that reason, I now will be devoting 100% of my time to Urgent Communications (UC), serving as its publisher and editor-in-chief. This is ironic in a way, as the concept of "going where I was needed" is exactly how I became editor of this publication in the first place. At the time, I was quite happy as a senior writer on Telephony magazine — so happy, in fact, that I originally turned down the opportunity. But Mark Hickey, the magazine's publisher at the time, convinced me that he needed me to do this. Little did I know that, nearly nine years later, I'd still be at it. And little did Mark know that I ultimately would succeed him as publisher.

I'm excited about this development, for several reasons. First, I have grown to love this publication and the industry it covers, and I now will have more time not only to contemplate new ways to serve our audience but also to write more. Second, Donny Jackson is becoming UC's editor. Donny and I have worked side by side for more than a dozen years — first as colleagues on Telephony for three years, and the last nine years collaborating on UC. In his new role, Donny will have an even stronger voice in the publication's direction, and I am certain this will have a positive impact, because he simply is the best journalist I've worked with in my 30-year career. Finally, Lisa Allegretti, who has served the last three years as the managing editor for both UC and Fire Chief, will be stepping up to become the editor of the latter. It is a position for which she is extremely well qualified, and which she richly deserves. Lisa has been with FC for more than a dozen years and has deep knowledge of the fire service; she also is a terrific editor.

This is an exciting time for our industry, as the advent of broadband is a game-changer. Our readers will have much to do, which means that we will have much to do. I am glad that I will have more time now to do it. Let's get started.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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