Newly minted Chesterfield Observer editor Scott Bass Photo by Mike Freeman
Like more than a few reporters, Scott Bass credits a life in the journalism trade with his having little choice in the matter.
"The only skill that I had is that I could write a little bit," the Powhatan County native says, reflecting upon his embarkation into ink-stained wretchedness. After more than a decade at Style Weekly, Bass has taken on a new job as the editor of the weekly Chesterfield Observer . (He'll also be heading up its magazine spinoff, Chesterfield Monthly.)
Bass got into mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University. "I graduated from the School of Wilma Wirt," he says, name-checking the highly regarded no-nonsense associate professor of journalism who retired in 2006.
Prior to his 1995 graduation, he joined the upstart Inside Business, then edited by Bob Rayner. "It was business-to-business, and a lot of how-to kind of things," Bass says. "Unfortunately, I knew nothing about business." He left for two years in the mid-1990s to work at the Petersburg Progress-Index before returning to Inside Business a bit wiser, rising to the editor's chair as the publication went from monthly to weekly.
In 2002, Landmark Communications pulled the plug on Inside Business, and Bass says that he'd almost given up on journalism when Style Weekly editor Jason Roop hired him. "If that hadn't happened when it did, I don't think I'd still be doing this," Bass says.
It was a good time to be writing about Richmond, what with the city charter change, the advent of the mayor-at-large, the tempestuous term of Doug Wilder and the Occupy movement camping on the front lawn of Richmond Free Press editor Ray Boone.
But ultimately, Bass says, the fatigue of writing similar news stories over and over got to him. Not the management. At no time did a publisher or a front-office suit try to quash a story or complain about content. "I suspect that's exceedingly rare," he says. "The journalistic integrity of the company is bar none."
His new boss, Chesterfield Observer publisher Greg Pearson, took Bass and Style Weekly to task a couple times in print. In July 2007, Pearson used his editorial column to offer corrections to a Style piece by Bass on residential growth in Chesterfield. "Boy, he lit into us on that one, huh?" Bass says when the 2007 editorial is brought up. "They have every right to call us out if they think we're wrong."
While Style has been around since 1982, the Observer started in 1995. It's still a relatively young outlet with some growing ahead of it that Bass, who lives in Chesterfield County, plans to be a part of. He anticipates gaining a completely different perspective on current events. Of bidding farewell to all that he's professionally known under the Landmark umbrella, Bass says, "It was a really, really tough thing for me to do."