Up front: July 2012

Finis print

The people whose words populate these pages compose a changing cast of characters. Some stay for years, their work appearing in every issue. Bylines of others show up only occasionally. A few appear but once, never to be seen here again. It’s the nature of this business, which is why publications rarely note departures, even when veteran staff members leave the fold.

But this one we can’t ignore. Since he launched his Fine Print column in our October 2007 issue, Dan Gearino has been one of our most popular writers. In the 25 years I have edited the magazine, nobody else’s work, month after month, has elicited as much reader response. A novelist and former business editor, he came to us after 11 years as a columnist for The (Raleigh) News & Observer, so he already had a following. He gained a lot of new fans here. One of the reasons, I believe, is that he kept the promise he made on this very page in his introduction.

“I’ll never pose myself as a business authority, a charade that would be exposed within minutes, nor will I ever be so foolish as to tell anyone how to run a company. Instead, I’ll be that curious fellow who has a knack for pertinent observations and impertinent questions. The only guarantee I’ll make is that every column will be eminently readable.” So why is the column that begins on page 14 his BNC swan song? For the same reason we’ve all given up things that give us pleasure in this life: Work got in the way. Here’s how he explains it:

“Five years ago, I left the daily newspaper business to make my way as a writer-for-hire. My business plan, in a nutshell, was this: (1) Charge $175 an hour for my time; (2) avail to work no more than 15 hours a week; and (3) hoard the cascade of cash I was sure would follow, then retire at age 55, just a year-and-a-half later. I hit one of those goals. I billed $175 an hour — one time, and for a single hour of work. Also, the guy who hired me was a buddy, and I’m pretty sure it was a pity payment.

“So when Business North Carolina dangled the idea of having me write a monthly column, as well as the occasional cover story, I said yes with undignified haste. The magazine inexplicably regarded me as an asset. Who was I to argue?

“We had a lot of fun together, the magazine and me, right up until something unfortunate happened a few years later: A full-time job with NC Lawyers Weekly presented itself. It was a regular paycheck, an office just three blocks from home and involved lots of conversations with lawyers that weren’t prompted by a subpoena. I said yes to that gig, too.

“I thought I could do both, write magazine columns and edit a legal newspaper, but I was wrong. Something had to give, and that some- thing was the magazine. The lawyers won. They always do.”