It was back in 1983 that I was working on a business story at the former Association of Commerce and Industry when Tad walked in with his Leica camera to do a “Focus on People” column. His subject was then-ACI associate Sally Green, who had spent the last 14 months filling a large conical-shaped Galliano liqueur bottle with pennies. She was preparing to deposit the contents of the bottle with the former People Bank & Trust. But first, she thought it would be a subject worthy of Tad’s “Focus on People” column.
And sure enough, Tad arrived and began scribbling notes and taking pictures of a subject I never would have considered as a reporter. Tad’s focus soon shifted to how many pennies were in the bottle. He went around the room asking ACI workers to guess a total dollar amount. Ako Poel guessed $40. Lisa Reid and Mary Urbanski guessed $23 and $16 respectively. Tad thought $34. Then he turned to me for my estimate.
“Oh Tad, I don’t think you want a competitor in your column,” I said.
He gave me a slightly puzzled look and replied, “Sure I do. We’re not competitors; we’re in the same business of keeping the public informed.”
His response took me aback because he was so correct. Back in the days when The Tribune and The Chronicle battled for readers in the Grand Haven area, it was so easy to lose perspective of our true goal — serving the public. And Tad, in his typical way, reminded me of that.
I guessed $11. For the record, the total amount in the bottle was $57.50, so the “Focus on People” award went to Ako Poel (no relationship to Tad). I came in dead last; reporters never have been good with money. But I did walk away with Tad’s sage advice to focus on the public, not the competition.
That may explain why on several occasions while working the Grand Haven area for The Chronicle, and unbeknownst to my bosses, I occasionally loaned Tribune reporters my camera’s flash, a pen, a pad of paper or even gave them a ride when they needed help. We were competitors and I still delighted in beating them once in a while, but we were also working for the same goal of “keeping the public informed.” Tad Poel lived this and I’m glad he shared it with me. So, in hindsight, maybe I was the “Focus on People” award winner after all, even being 4,650 pennies short.
— By Terry Judd, who was with The Muskegon Chronicle from 1979 until 2009, serving most recently as chief of its now closed Tri-Cities Bureau.