In this photo, taken in the early part of the decade, Publisher Dianne Elizabeth Osis shares the spotlight with the paper she launched in 1980.
Three decades of Publishing
Springfield Business Journal has been through countless changes since launching July 22, 1980, but some things have remained the same. The company’s focus on covering southwest Missouri news dates back to its inception, and from the very beginning, Publisher Dianne Elizabeth Osis has led the way.
She moved to Springfield from Tulsa, armed with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Tulsa, her teaching credentials and experience teaching eighth grade.
“I tried to find a teaching job in Springfield, and I applied all around,” she says. “My impression was, if you didn’t know somebody on the school board, you didn’t get hired. It was tough.”
From her days working in a Tulsa law firm, Osis remembered reading Guffey’s Executive Journal, a real-estate oriented publication that included development news, personnel changes and public records. She saw an opportunity for a similar publication in Springfield. Through her former husband, Osis met Ken and Jeanne Willoughby, and the four worked together to launch TOPS Journal. That name stood for The Ozarks Pulse.
The paper’s first home was at 1428 E. Sunshine St., and issues came out every other week. The name changed to Springfield Business Journal in 1983, and after a couple years, Osis bought the Willoughbys out, borrowing money from her father to do so. In the late 1980s, however, she sold 49 percent of the paper to Sterling Media, to shore up SBJ’s financial position, but she bought it back by the 1990s, again borrowing money from her family.
“(My parents) believed in me, even when I didn’t,” Osis says. “We wouldn’t be sitting here right now if they hadn’t lent me money at very critical times when the bank wouldn’t lend it.”
In 1985, the publication moved to leased space at 209 E. Walnut St., most recently the site of Bijan’s. Dorothy Gardner, who had been with SBJ 20 years and was a vice president when she retired in 2008, remembers that Osis already was thinking about buying a building for the company by the time it relocated downtown.
Gardner says the search kicked into high gear when part of the ceiling on Walnut collapsed in the production department. “She said, ‘That’s it, Dorothy. We’ve got to have a building,’” Gardner says. “Refurbishing an old building downtown could have been a nightmare, but she was willing to do it. She was always open to taking chances – and still is.”
In 1996, SBJ moved to its current home at 313 Park Central West, following Osis’ purchase and renovation of a former hotel that had sat vacant for several years.
Staff support While Osis has done just about every job at SBJ through the years, she is quick to give credit for the company’s success to others, including her son, who worked at the paper during high school and is now a doctor in Osis’ native Michigan.
“He became an expert in the darkroom,” she says. “He set type late at night on school nights (and) was very patient with me about learning grammar and style, and sometimes, late at night, I didn’t even care.”
Then, there are the employees both past and present, including daughter Jennifer Jackson, who joined the company as chief operating officer in 2007 and was promoted to associate publisher earlier this year.
“The Business Journal outgrew me a long time ago. The staff members are the experts,” Osis says. “I’m the only one who has had the privilege of being a generalist.”
While she is proud of the W. Curtis Strube Small Business of the Year Award SBJ received in 1997, Osis says working with young professionals is a particularly rewarding part of her job.
“To see them learn and grow – is the greatest thing,” she says. “I really enjoy seeing the development of the young people who come in.”
Chris Whitley worked as an editor at SBJ in the late 1980s and says it was “an amazing time” in his career, teaching him multitasking skills that still serve him well.
“Dianne put great faith in the people she hired, and had a great vision for what the publication could be and should be,” says Whitley, now a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 in Kansas City.
The paper wouldn’t be what it is today without Osis’ vision, Whitley says.
“It takes a really special breed – to last this long, and not just survive but thrive. She’s made of something special.”
Another former staff member, Cathy Powell, sold advertising for SBJ 1986–91. Now in sales at Ollis & Co., she remembers learning that putting together a publication every week required a team effort.
“Dianne had laid the groundwork, and we just capitalized on it,” Powell says. “She had a dream, and it became reality. People really depend on this publication and look forward to receiving it.”
Because she’s emotionally attached to the company, Osis says she’s probably invested more than some would consider prudent in the business, but it’s because she believes so strongly in the company’s work – and its people. So much so, in fact, that she admits there have been times through the years when she’s gone without her own paycheck to make sure everyone else gets paid.
“But that’s nothing unusual,” she insists. “Every businessperson will have that story to tell. Or if not every one, many of them.”
Not just a newspaper Springfield Business Journal branched into special events in 1999 with the inaugural 40 Under 40, and the company now has six annual special events tied to awards. The company, now incorporated under SBJ Publishing Inc., added a sister publication in Joplin in 2005. This year, all 25 employees at both offices began playing Jack Stack’s Great Game of Business in earnest, and this spring, a contract publishing division was added.
Even after several awards from the Alliance of Area Business Publications, including Best Web Site, Best Scoop and Best Newspaper in the small tabloid category, Osis still looks at each issue of her publications critically.
“I’m never satisfied,” she says. “We can do better.”
Osis says she doesn’t know when – or if – she’ll retire.
“I will not quit and walk away when we’re down, and when we’re up, I never want to leave,” she says. “How can I, with the hard-working staff all around me? How could I let that go?”[[In-content Ad]]