As a journalist, I’m always looking for new ways to tell a story. And that interest extends to publications that aren’t my cup of tea or fall outside my coverage area. A writer is a writer, and as I was always told, the good ones can write about anything.
I don’t remember which business trip it was or if I was even with F&I and Showroom at the time, but a prior passenger had left behind an issue of Latina magazine in the seat pocket in front of me. A former colleague of mine had gone to work there and I was curious if I might see her work. Her byline wasn’t in there, but the editorial page caught my attention.
I don’t even remember the name of the author, but I do remember her message: She was leaving the publication. She used her editorial to reflect on her time as head of her lifestyle, entertainment, and fashion magazine. And the more I read, the more I wondered how an editor could leave a gig she obviously loved.
It’s Friday, Oct. 19, my last day as editor of F&I and Showroom magazine. Trying to figure out how my farewell message should go, that memory of that Latina magazine editorial popped into my head. I guess it’s because I love this magazine, and I loved being your advocate. I just get you, and I get why F&I is needed.
As I’ve written many times in the past, I am a former newspaper guy. Lawsuits, triple homicides, and controversy were always my thing. My articles compelled a local chamber of commerce to boycott my own newspaper — to the point that the publication no longer exists. (The ad sales guy begged me to lighten up.) Heck, one series of critical stories even reduced a city councilwoman to tears.
So you can imagine my excitement when the founder of my company, the late Ed Bobit, plopped on my desk the encyclopedia-sized compliance book Automotive Dealers Institute put out in 2006. I remember thinking that, if it takes 772 pages to describe how a dealer can stay out of trouble, I’m going to have a field day.
In fact, my first big story was about a Los Angeles-based dealership that was caught packing payments. Having no idea what that was, it was an eye-opening moment for me. And the effort earned me my first nomination in the Western Publishing Association’s annual Maggie Awards.
I didn’t win the award, unfortunately. In fact, I’ve struck out the last 16 times I made the final round, which I guess makes me the Susan Lucci of the Maggies. But we journalists don’t do what we do to win awards. See, we believe we’re servants of the people who open up our magazines, serving as their eyes and ears on things that might impact their lives and livelihoods.
And every editor has a strategy for doing that. My approach has always been to build a community — to give a voice to the unheard. But you have to start somewhere, and I knew that payment packing article would introduce me to the industry. And, well, it did.
Yes, the compliance folks were the first to reach out, people like David Robertson with the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals and the esteemed Tom Hudson of Hudson Cook. But it also drew out the guy who would be instrumental in helping me learn about the industry: “Mad” Marv Eleazer.
As you know, Marv has been closing out every issue of F&I and Showroom since August 2010. And with each article I edited, another piece of this fascinating industry was revealed. I guess you can say I was let into the fraternity. And with that came great responsibility.
Folks, I’ve done my best to give you all a voice, to give the industry a forum in which problems and issues are addressed. And I was always careful how I did that. To steal a line from the great Jim “Da Man” Ziegler, I became your advocate.
And in doing that, I met the industry’s best — individuals I am proud to call friends and teachers. I’m talking about people like F&I trainer Ron Reahard, Cox Automotive’s Mark O’Neil, Reynolds and Reynolds’ Terry O’Loughlin, the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Andy Koblenz, and countless others.
I mean, here’s a guy from the small California town rubbing shoulders with this industry’s biggest celebrities. I guess you don’t realize that until you’re ready to hang it up.
It’s been great, folks. Thank you for letting me into your world. The good news is I’m not leaving the industry; I’m joining it. As for why I’m leaving, I guess the answer is, it’s just time. This is Gregory Arroyo, signing off.