APG pres­i­dent went from pa­per­boy to pub­lisher

Fike cel­e­brates 25 years at East­ern Shore news­pa­pers

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­pub.com

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.”

DAVID FIKE

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