Ron Rollins didn’t go to work today. And he won’t be going tomorrow either, but we couldn’t let the newly retired journalist off the hook before we gave him one last assignment. We asked him to write about himself:
What brought you to Dayton?
I arrived at the Dayton Daily News in December 1986 as an assistant metro editor, working nights handling editing and rewrites on breaking and local news, part of a very talented team of about 6 other editors. Worked from 1 to 10 p.m. on the third floor of our old building at Fourth and Ludlow downtown (now gone; sigh), and it was a great way to learn the city, its stories and people. I worked very closely with my friend Vince McKelvey, who was the other nightside editor with me and who was an amazing mentor and teacher, a fabulous word editor and really taught me all about Dayton, its history and how it worked. He retired years ago, and I attribute a good deal of my success at the DDN to him.
I’ve been fortunate all my life to have great mentors at the times I’ve needed them. At the DDN, I’ve also been able to work with a long line of incredible and fabulously talented, creative journalists, some of the best in the nation. It’s been a gift and I treasure it.
What have your job titles over the years been:
Gosh, a lot. Rather than just dump a resume or CV, I went from assistant metro editor to some other local news editing after a few years, then became the Arts & Entertainment editor, a job I had for a long time and which I truly loved. We had much fun covering the local arts scene, from clubs to the DPO. I wrote a lot, learned a ton (Jazz! Hip-hop! Opera! Impressionism!) and did a weekly arts column that ran on Sundays. Eventually I also become the editor of the Life daily features section, and eventually an assistant managing editor, then one of 3 managing editors who ran the paper. I was usually in charge of features, arts, the photo desk, sports – all the fun stuff, basically. Eventually I helped run our company’s operations in Butler and Warren counties, which then consisted of two daily and six weekly papers, and was editor there. I came back to the Dayton Daily News about 12 years ago to run the opinion section, which we reframed as the Ideas & Voices community and opinion pages that we have today. I’ve had a variety of senior-editor type titles over the last few years; I use old business cards as book marks. During the recent decade when the DDN was aligned with WHIO TV and radio, I had the good luck to be able to do a weekly radio interview show, “Miami Valley Voices,” which I greatly enjoyed – so, add “radio host,” which I never thought I’d get to call myself.
Tell us about some of the changes you’ve seen in newspapers over the years?
Well, the big obvious one everyone knows about is the advent of and the move to online and digital journalism, which has been a massive change in every aspect of the business. In terms of content, reporting and getting information to readers, it’s been an amazing and wonderful boon, and a lot of fun. In terms of advertising, it’s been a catastrophic hit to the original business model of how newspapers made money, and you’ve seen the results – local news everywhere is on the ropes, trying its best to stay afloat. Here in Dayton, we have done a better job than in many markets of holding our ground, keeping up quality and managing our resources in a way that works best for our company, our staff and our customers. This community is very, very lucky to have Cox and the Dayton Daily News, and I hope and pray it will continue to support the newspaper as it has.
Is there a story you’ve felt particularly proud of putting out there?
That’s a toughie. So many. The biggest stories I was part of were our coverage of the two-week prison riot in Lucasville, about 25 years ago, which I managed on site, and I was lucky enough to be near Centennial Park in Atlanta the night the terrorist bomb went off, and me and two friends got the big national story on that, back in 1996 – an actual “stop the presses” moment. It was scary, and sad, but also, I must admit, thrilling.
I’d say the stuff I enjoyed covering the most in general would be all the arts stories over the 10 years or so I was a part of that. I wrote a lot about the Dayton Art Institute and the local visual arts and music scenes, and really learned a lot and liked it.
Also, I had the chance with the DDN to produce and edit several books about Dayton history – “For the Love of Dayton,” “Dayton Ink,” and “Gentlemen Amateurs,” plus some others, and I still see them around town on shelves. That’s kinda cool. Few papers would have given me a chance like that.
Tell us about someone you met through your DDNews work that has become a friend?
All of you! Honestly, journalism is a business that gives you daily, endless opportunities to meet and get to know many, many fascinating and wonderful people – it’s the nature of the biz. A lot of journos say they got into the business because they love to write; I got into it because I enjoyed meeting new people and talking to them. I love interviewing people and getting to know how and why they tick. I’ve made many friends here over the years, and many other close acquaintances that I enjoy keeping in touch with – through the paper and also through the various boards and community organizations I’ve been part of as well over the years. That’s a long list of organizations, by the way, which is probably another story.
What do you envision your perfect day in retirement to look like?
Hmm, looking forward to finding out. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do more hikes in the woods, read even more books, write more poetry, have lunch with folks I’ve been meaning to catch up with, make dinner for my lovely wife a bit earlier in the day, and spend time in my Kettering studio making more art than I’ve had a chance to recently. Oh, and naps.
What advice you’d give others about getting along in Dayton?
Well, it’s been said a million times before by smarter people that Dayton is a semi-big small town (I like to call it a small town with two tall buildings that aren’t very tall), and that makes it a place where you can get things done quickly and well because it’s easy to connect with a lot of people in a meaningful way. Everyone knows everyone, and is happy to take their call, and say “yes,” if they can. It’s a place, too, where if you want to try something creative or a bit odd, folks will give you a shot and generally be encouraging. It’s meant a lot to me, for instance, that when I tentatively toe-dipped into the local arts community as a painter after years of having covered it, and was fairly shy about doing so, I found a lot of positive encouragement that was quite wonderful, and kept me going. People here are so nice. These things are of course true for lots of other communities, too, but I like the way it works here – our brand and flavor of it. It’s what I know. It’s one of the reasons we stayed.
Anything else you’d like to share….
My wife, Amy, also works at the paper and isn’t ready to retire yet; she and I raised two wonderful kids here (both grown now) and have loved our time in Dayton and Kettering (where we live and our kids went to school) and the whole area, and have never regretted that we chose this as a place to live and stay. It’s a great place to be and to make a home, and we consider ourselves lucky.
One of my favorite pictures of Ron, when he ran the Clothes That Work Hunks in Heels evetns!
We wish you all the best as you create new adventures Ron!