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From Publisher to Author: Chronicle CEO Retires, Launches Career as Writer
[August 13, 2012]

From Publisher to Author: Chronicle CEO Retires, Launches Career as Writer

Aug 11, 2012 (The Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- In 1954, an oaf of a man nicknamed Walkin' Joe lived in the rural town of Algona, Iowa, a small town about the size of Chehalis. He was homeless, often drunk and considered a public nuisance by many.

A group of 11-year-old paperboys targeted and tormented Walkin' Joe.

Sixteen years later, one of those boys had grown up to be a newspaper reporter and was assigned to write Walkin' Joe's obituary. The obituary form was blank except for his name: "JoeSmith." That reporter, Dennis Waller, said he had a hard time getting started when he sat down to write.

"All of a sudden I went into a zone," Waller said. "I went to the heart instead of the brain and wrote how sad it made me, considering the fact that we'd bothered him in his golden years." The obituary was picked up by other papers, including the New York Times.

Afterward, Waller set out to learn more about Walkin' Joe, and interviewed local farmers and people in pool halls who had interacted with him.

Waller began writing about his time as a child in Algona and about Walkin' Joe. That book became his memoir and it's set to be published this fall.

Waller, 69, announced this week that he will be retiring as CEO and President of Lafromboise and is launching a new career as an author with the publication of "Walkin' Joe and the Midnight Marauders" this fall.

Waller's family owned newspapers in Iowa, and he's been in the industry his whole life.

He was recruited in 1992 to serve as the publisher of The Chronicle.

Waller said the newspaper's reputation was "soft' when he arrived.

"An editor at a nearby daily made a comment that The Chronicle was a graveyard for journalists -- if they come here, they can never leave," he said. "That's the kind of uphill battle I had." Last year, he was promoted to CEO and President; he also manages the Nisqually Valley News, the Battleground Reflector, The Chronicle Printing Division and Sign Pro.

Waller's final day is Aug. 31, and as he makes his exit, he's had time to reflect on more than 50 years in the business.

"I like the business," he said. "It's vibrant and you really have pulse on the community if the newspaper is doing its job." He said the evolution of newspapers during his time in the business has been seismic.

"And it's ongoing," he said. "It's at the speed of light. If there's a concern I have, it's the loss of a sense of community that a newspaper helps build." Waller said he'll miss interaction with people the most.

"Technology is great, the iron that runs the newspapers is great," he said. "But people are the key. That's what I'll miss the most." ___ (c)2012 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) Visit The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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