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33 years later based on one phone call, I’ve apparently reached a new level of mediocrity
bulletin 1973
This photo taken in 1973 shows city street crews painting the crosswalk in front of the former offices of the Bulletin from 1954 to 2022. The building at 531 East Yosemite Avenue now houses the Central Valley Association of Realtors.

All it took was a little bit of logic, a couple of calls, and I ended up in Manteca.

If I had waited another day to the deadline to say “yes’ or “no” I could have ended up in Las Vegas.

Thirty-three years ago last month I answered a blind ad in a two months old edition of Editor & Publisher.

All it said was a California seven-day daily with 7,000 circulation was looking for a managing editor. It had the prerequisite box number at the magazine to send my resume.

I had applied for two other open positions after deciding the time had come to do something different after working for The Press-Tribune in Roseville for 16 years.

Assuming, correctly, as I later found out that the posting might already be filled,  I went ahead and decided to try my luck.

But I figured I had no time to waste using the mail.

So I used an exercise that old school reporters have newbies do to track down the unlisted phone number of someone.

Well, actually it was their way of gambling by placing bets on who would deliver first.

They’d pit two newer reporters against each other, give them the name of someone with an unlisted phone number in a city often a number of states away, and you had just 10 phone calls to connect with someone that had the number of the person you wanted and get them to give it to you.

It took me all of three calls to find out the only seven-day daily at the time in the state with a circulation under 10,000 — there were 20  of them at the time — that was looking for the editor was the Manteca Bulletin.

It then took me just two calls to find out Darrel Phillips’ unlisted mobile phone number.

This is back when mobile phones were about the size of a brick and weighed almost as much.

Darrel was taken aback that I somehow got his unlisted number.

After a few questions, he told me to fax him a resume and said he’d call me back.

Two days later he called to ask if I could meet him for an interview in a suite at Arco Arena before the start of a Sacramento Kings game.

In addition to working full-time for The Press-Tribune I was in my sixth year of covering the Sacramento Kings home games as the Associated Press correspondent as well as doing other sports related reporting in the Sacramento area for the wire service.

I spent every spare moment in the two days I had to find out everything thing I could in such a short time frame about Manteca — city politics, hot button issues, and the newspaper market.

Darrel offered me the job on the spot but I said I wanted to be interviewed by the general manager as well to make sure that I was the right fit.

He said that wasn’t necessary but humored me anyway.

The interview was set up for Jan. 25 in Manteca. Darrell asked that I let him know my decision by Jan. 28.

Before I went to my interview on Jan. 25, I drove around Manteca and took a walk down Yosemite Avenue.

When I came across the ACE Hardware store that was located where the building that housed American Furniture up until last month, I went inside.

The reason for this was simple.

I had spent much of the first seven years of my life hanging out in my dad’s hardware store dusting paint cans and shelves for candy money.

Wyatt Hardware had a 70-year run between my grandfather and his three sons with locations in Lincoln and Roseville.

Within seconds of stepping through the front door I was greeted by Dale Bordenkircher — part owner I later found out — who treated me like an old friend.

I shared how I was thinking of moving to Manteca and he gave me a long list of reasons why I should.

After that stop, I walked further down Yosemite Avenue and across the railroad tracks.

As I passed the house with blue gables and an expansive porch just a few doors down across the street from where the Manteca museum is today, a gentleman sitting on the porch waved at me and I waved back.

What little interaction I had with people who lived here, sold me.

I called Darrel the next day and accepted the job and gave my three weeks’ notice.

Later, I learned he had decided to offer the job to someone else and was about ready to call him when I called on his mobile phone.

The next day after I told Darrel yes, the assistant to Hank Greenspun — the legendary publisher of the Las Vegas Sun — called saying her boss had gone through resumes and background checks on applicants and wanted me to interview for the job as the paper’s political columnist.

Given how tempting that was on so many levels — Greenspun’s reputation, Las Vegas being a two daily newspaper city at the time in an all-out circulation war, the fact politics in Vegas and Nevada are on the wild side, and Vegas being in close proximity to Death Valley that was my favorite getaway — I declined.

I had already given my word to Darrel.

So I showed up for work at the Manteca Bulletin on Feb. 21, 1991.

At the time the Manteca News was a twice-a-week weekly located kitty-corner across the street.

The Stockton Record, Modesto Bee, and Tri-Valley Herald all had their own bureaus in various office spaces on Center Street.

It kind of felt like home.

The Press-Tribune had three dailies aggressively coming after us — the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Union, and Auburn Journal — as well as several weeklies such as the Rocklin Herald, Lincoln News Messenger, and Loomis News.

Before I arrived in Manteca, the Bulletin had gone through a number of editors in 18 months. I’m not too sure of the count, but I was told by the staff it was seven.

All of the reporters at the time were pretty sure I wouldn’t be staying long.

In that first week, I took a call from a reader who did not identify himself.

He asked if I was the new editor, and I said I was.

He then proceeded to tell me if I was like half the editors before me, I would be too good to stay and would quit within weeks, and if I was like the other half of editors I would be so bad I’d get fired in weeks.

He then hung up the phone without offering a good-bye or even saying good luck.

In looking back 33 years based on that phone call, I’m still here because apparently I’ve reached a level of extraordinary mediocrity as I have yet to leave on my own accord or be fired.

 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at