It’s not only unique to work in a family business, but also for a family business. East Bay Newspapers General Manager Scott Pickering has straddled two generations in his nearly 20-year career at the news group.
The flagship paper, the Bristol Phoenix, started in 1837 and was purchased by Ros Bosworth Sr. in the 1920s. Ros Sr. brought his son, Ros Jr., into the business at an early age and they expanded by acquiring the Warren Times-Gazette and launching both the Barrington Times and Sakonnet Times in the 1950s and 60s. Ros Jr.’s wife Marcia had two boys – Matt and Jonathan “Jock” Hayes – who took over the business in 1997 (note: Matt Hayes is also a publisher of The Bay). Expansion continued under their leadership with the purchase of Westport Shorelines and the East Providence Post, as well as the recent launch of the Portsmouth Times.
Pickering entered the company out of college in 1994 as a reporter, around the time of a key transition point: “All four family members at the time had key leadership positions – Ros Jr. was the publisher and focused on news, Marcia was the president and in charge of sales, Matt was the general manager and publisher-in-training, and Jock was the head of operations in charge of production. It really was a family company.”
While Matt and Jock had both grown up in the business – they started at an early age delivering papers, helping in the mail room and running the press - it was identified early on that Matt would be the eventual successor. Pickering recalls, “There was a deliberately planned, formal process that unfolded over several years as he rotated through every department. It was well-executed and ensured that he knew the business from top-to-bottom... or rather, bottom-to-top.”
As an outsider, Pickering didn’t find the family ties distracting: “In certain respects, they maintained a formal atmosphere. No one called each other ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ or ‘Honey,’ they always used first names. It helped the rest of the company maintain a professional attitude.” But he adds, “In other respects, it was very relaxed. ‘Family business’ permeated everything. It was not unusual to walk into the office and see a couple of dogs hanging out.”
The common gripe in a family business is the inability to unplug, but Pickering notes how that’s compounded running a news business: “I imagine they couldn’t gather and not talk about business, but since it’s something they understand it probably has a greater effect on the people around them – the spouses and cousins at the family parties. But the thing about news is that it’s such a public dynamic and your efforts are seen by everyone. Complete immersion 100% of the time is great professionally as far as getting better access, but as a human you can’t get away unless you literally go away.”
Pickering highlights the fact that not being a family member doesn’t diminish certain feelings. “There’s healthy pressure to do your job well. Everyone here has tremendous pride. Ros Jr. spent 50 years here, Matt’s been at it for 20 and now we’re stewards of their company and their heritage. We enjoy upholding the standards. I love working here and I wouldn’t change any of it.”