BY JEFF FALK
Mike Givler was and is a career sports guy.
When one cares about something as much as Givler loves sports, he or she can pour his or her heart, soul and passion into one’s work. And when that happens, it becomes something more than a job.
On a personal note, Givler’s recent dismissal from his position as The Lebanon Daily News’ sport editor was just slightly less than tragic. But it was also another alarming lay off in a decade-long series of furloughs that has observers wondering about the future of the local newspaper, and the information-disseminating industry itself.
On Monday, July 7, Givler was called into a closed-door meeting with Lebanon Daily News publisher Scott Downs, Lebanon Daily News managing editor Andrea Rich and a Media News Group human relations manager and unceremoniously handed a pink slip. It was Givler’s final reward for 15 years of service to The Lebanon Daily News and the local sports community.
“I didn’t have an inkling,” said Givler, during an exclusive interview with Lebanon Sports Buzz. “I was totally shocked when I was told the news. I had no idea. I knew there was a meeting scheduled for that Monday, but the speculation throughout the newsroom was that maybe we were moving, or the building had been sold or we were going to three days a week like The Patriot (News).
“Scott (Downs) basically said, ‘We are eliminating your position,'” added Givler. ” ‘It’s not a reflection of your work.’ Basically it was a move the paper had to make. Money had to be the reason. If it wasn’t because of my performance and it was nothing I had done, what else could it be? I basically cleaned out my desk and was gone.”
Rich did not immediately return a message seeking comment for this piece.
In an industry that’s doing a lot more firing than hiring these days, it is unclear whether or not The Lebanon Daily News will ever employ another sports editor again. If not, Givler will be remembered as the last in a long line of talented and professional journalists to man the position – a list that includes Bill Warner, Steve Snyder, Walt Long and Tiny Parry.
“I have no idea what direction the paper is going,” said Givler. “Maybe one day they’ll have another sports editor. Right now, I’m the last sports editor at The Lebanon Daily News. What a great honor that would be. There were great people who sat in the chair before me. The relationships you foster in that job are unbelievable. It was the relationships and the memories that defined the job for me.
“When football starts, this will be the first time in 22 years that I won’t be involved in covering local sports,” continued Givler. “Sports has been my life. I have a father and an older brother who love sports. It’s (sports editor) something I dreamed about doing. It’s been ingrained in me. That won’t change. But there are some positives to it. The night work, the weekends were taking a toll on me emotionally. I have two daughters who are getting older and becoming more involved in things, and I couldn’t support them from the stands.”
With Givler’s departure, The Lebanon Daily News’ sports staff has been reduced to two full-time employees, sports writers Pat Huggins and Chris Fidler. According to reports, Givler’s former behind-the-scene duties will be divided between editors from the news side and Ed Gotwals, the sports editor at the Chambersburg Public Opinion, another of Media News Group’s newspapers.
“The way I understand it, Pat and Chris will be covering events, but someone else will be doing what I was doing, the behind-the-scenes things,” said Givler. “I don’t think the paper’s coverage will suffer at all, but someone else will be doing my job. That’s what I was told in my separation meeting.
“If I was in his (Gotwals’) shoes and I had to run the Chambersburg sports department from Lebanon, it would be extremely difficult to do,” Givler continued. “Ed is a good guy. I really like him a lot. He’s a class person. It’s not that I didn’t want to write or that I couldn’t, I just always figured Pat and Chris would prefer to be out covering things. I think his (Gotwals’) approach is a little different than mine. But I don’t know how much he knows about Lebanon.”
It could be that Fidler and Huggins will be called upon to shoulder even larger responsibilities in the day-to-day operations of the sports department. But it may not be a change that the untrained observer notices.
This reporter worked under Givler’s guidance for ten years, and what always struck me about him was his ability to make good things out of less-than-ideal situations. And he always genuinely cared, about his guys, the Lebanon community, the people being written about and the product.
He remains a colleague and a friend.
“I think Pat and Chris already put in their 50-plus hours a week,” said Givler. “I don’t know if they can do any more than they’re already doing. I think they’ll continue to do the excellent job they did for me. The behind-the-scenes things will have to fall on someone else. But I’m not sure the readers will be able to tell the difference.
“I don’t know where it’s heading,” Givler added. “The industry is ever changing. The paper tries to do the best it can to change with it. I think they’re throwing a lot of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. People thought newspapers would die when the radio came along. People thought newspapers would die when television came along. They’re still around. Will newspapers die because of The Internet? I guess we’ll see. But maybe something that didn’t work was why I lost my job.”
Thankfully, Givler has landed on his feet. Although it’s not in the sports world, he secured a new job mere days after losing his former one.
He has become the Communications Coordinator for the Synod of the Trinity, an organization associated with the Presbyterian Church serving the Pennsylvania and West Virginia region, headquartered in Camp Hill.
“I felt public relations would be the next step for me,” said Givler. “They’re basically creating a new position for me. I’ll be able to mold it as I see fit. I’m not taking over for anyone. The best thing about it is that it’s 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. And I actually have an opportunity to work from home from time to time. I was lucky.”