Owen Davis, advertising account executive, 2016-2020

Owen Davis
Owen Davis

I answered a Craigslist ad. I had just moved to Minnesota, I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t have a full-time job and I was looking for something to occupy my time. I’m a musician, and I saw a posting for a position in a band that seemed like a good fit. My guiding philosophy has always been “Dive in, then figure it out,” so I called.

After a short phone conversation, I agreed to come Downtown to talk in person. That’s how I met Terry Gahan, found out about the Southwest Journal and first saw the operation. The audition went great, and as far as I knew I was in a band. I didn’t think for a second that a couple years later, a whole new career would come from it.

I had never done anything in sales in my life and never even considered it, but after two years of playing together and becoming friends, I’d learned enough about Terry to take him seriously when he told me he had an opening in his sales department and thought I might be good at it if I wanted to try. I thought what
the heck, I’d been working minimum wage too long, might as well give it a shot — dive in, then figure it out. I honestly guessed that after a couple weeks, we’d both agree it didn’t make a lot of sense and drop the idea, no harm no foul.

Two weeks passed, and I was getting the hang of the process and getting more interested. A month, and I was actually having some real success. After three months, it turned out Terry was right — I was good at it. What’s more, I liked it. I didn’t just like the process, I liked all of it. My coworkers were smart, creative, likeable folks who welcomed me even though I had zero idea what I was doing. What’s more, I got to meet the various characters of the Southwest Minneapolis community. The variety that comes with selling for a paper meant I got to know the people at establishments as diverse as Isles Bun and Coffee, Revolutionary Sports, Washburn McReavy – and so many more! I didn’t just learn sales; I learned things about all the businesses I worked with.

I even learned about everything that goes into a community event. One of the big losses of this past year was the need to cancel our 2020 Home Improvement Fair. I’d worked this event every year since starting with the paper and getting to spend that face-to-face time with readers and advertisers was incredibly rewarding. I can remember driving around town with my colleague Nik, trying to wait just long enough for the ground to thaw enough to put out the signs for the event, but not so long that we missed the window for them to be seen. We would always spend the first couple days frustratedly trying to jam these signs into the frosty Minnesota earth, hard as a rock. Yet somehow, this just became another enjoyable part of the tradition.

Five years later, and this has been the ultimate validation of the idea of “Dive in, then figure it out.” I’ve done things I never thought myself capable of and seen real journalism at work. I’ve seen what it means to stand behind a story. When one of our reporters wrote a piece that bothered one of my clients, they threatened not to work with us if we ran it. Well, we all agreed that Nate Gotlieb had delivered a brilliantly written, thoroughly researched article and that was that. The publishers stood behind his work, and never asked him not to tell the truth. They stood behind me and made sure I didn’t take a financial hit from the loss of business. In a word, I saw integrity.

The responses I’ve heard to the news of the Southwest Journal closing have only served to underscore how true that is, and how much this community knows it. Across the board, people have recognized just how valuable this paper has been as a voice for the area and expressed their gratitude for it. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be associated with an organization of such integrity. I will miss it, and I know the community will as well!