APG president went from paperboy to publisher
Fike celebrates 25 years at Eastern Shore newspapers
EASTON — David Fike first began working for The Star Democrat at age 10, when he was a paper boy for the local newspaper whose offices were a few blocks from his home in Easton.
More than a decade later, he began his career with The Bay Times, selling advertising for the Kent Island weekly paper also owned by Chesapeake Publishing.
Fike, who celebrated 25 years with the newspaper company recently, now serves as the president of APG Media of Chesapeake and publisher of The Star Democrat. As APG president, he also oversees daily and weekly papers and magazines on both sides of the Chesapeake, including the Maryland Independent.
Fike said the news industry is changing so dynamically and so quickly that it is an amazing and, at times, difficult period in the business.
“It’s kind of a crazy time and difficult time to transition a business model like ours but I look at it differently — completely opposite,” Fike said. “To me this is an exciting time to be a part of it.”
“Our industry has been stagnant for a decade, if not a century, and all of a sudden technology and reader habits have caused us to look at our industry in a totally different view and nobody has a clue what it is going to look like decades from now,” he said. “So we have the opportunity to create a new business model for an industry that has been around for centuries. It’s kind of cool to be running a company that is doing that.”
“Our job is different every single day,” Fike said. “We know what the masthead will be and the overall look of the paper but we absolutely do not know what is going to be in the paper.”
“It’s like baking a new variation of a loaf of bread every single day,” he said. “And with that we get different results and challenges too.”
Fike’s first stint with the newspaper began when he was 10. A driven child, with plans for the future, he saved the money he earned from his paper route, mowing lawns and other jobs to pay for college.
“I was pretty entrepreneurial at that age,” he said.
He jokes now that his savings barely paid for his first semester.
“I look back at it now and wish I would have been more like a 10-yearold and spent the money,” he said.
Fike attended the University of Maryland in College Park, and graduated with a degree in business. He had no intention of staying on the Shore and had his heart set on moving to the “big city.”
After college, Fike asked his parents if he could “take a year off and just bum around.” His parents agreed, but after only two weeks he learned he was going to need money to just “bum around,” so he answered an ad in the The Star Democrat for sales staff.
His career began March 13, 1992, at The Bay Times on Kent Island, where he sold advertisements for a year, before he moved across the bridge to Anne Arundel County to help open up a new market for the paper.
“I grew that market fairly well over the next year,” Fike said.
When an opportunity arose at The Star Democrat for an advertising director, Fike decided to apply, and got the job. With only two years of sales experience, and at age 24, he found himself managing a sales staff.
“A lot of that staff was older than myself and had been here for years,” Fike said. “It was a great experience and I learned a lot.”
He said he was thankful the staff and bosses were patient with him as he was learning the ropes.
“To get that kind of management experience at the age of 24 was cool,” Fike said. “It was such a great experience.”
Fike found his niche in sales and truly loved that time in his career. He said there are days when he thinks to himself he would like to do that again.
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do right now,” he said. “I like this role, but if you really get to the core of me it would be the sales. I loved the interaction with the people and assisting a business in growing their business. Going through that process with them was enjoyable.”
Fike said it seemed that every two years or so he was being promoted into a new position with new responsibilities but admits that even after four or five years into his career he never would have thought he would be where he is today.
“Somewhere along the way it just clicked,” Fike said. “I don’t know exactly what it was that clicked in my brain other than that this is a great area, I really do love it.”
Fike said it was around that time he met Gwen, who later became his wife. She owned a small retail shop next to the Tidewater Inn and one of his co-workers just knew they would be perfect for one another.
“I knew that there was no better place in the world to raise kids than the Eastern Shore of Maryland,” he said. “I enjoyed it as a kid and my kids are enjoying it now.”
Fike said it is not just the area that makes him glad he stayed here but also his love for the newspaper industry.
He said he gets asked all the time if the newspaper business is a tough industry, and where he sees the future of it going.
“My answer always is — yeah, it’s difficult but we are no different than any other industry right now, you can look at a variety of other industries and they are all going through some sort of transition in relation to customer habits and/or technology that is changing,” Fike said.
Not only does Fike love the challenges and innovations of this business but he said the things he loves the most about his career with The Star Democrat are the “fun things.”
“What I tend to remember the most over the last 25 years is the people — our staff — people that either worked with me or for me or in other departments,” Fike said. “It’s amazing the kind of memories that pop back up.”
Fike said those working in the newspaper industry tend to spend more time during the day with their coworkers than with their families, so it is important to him to enjoy what he is doing and that others around him do as well.
“Life is too short, enjoy what you do,” he said. “We work hard and play hard here in this environment.”
When he isn’t in the office he enjoys spending time with his wife Gwen and their two children, Harrison, 12, and Morgan, 11. He said their lives seem to be wrapped around the children’s activities but when they have free time they love to travel and play golf. He is a self-proclaimed foodie and sometimes travel plans center around that.
“It has been a fun ride that I have truly enjoyed,” Fike said. “I am looking forward to the future and the ride continuing to be fun and enjoyable with the staff we have today and who is going to join us moving forward.”