David Davis, managing editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner, is retiring after 10 years of providing positive journalism for the city he now calls home.
Writing was his early dream. It was the siren’s call he pushed aside in favor of joining the Navy in 1972. He said it remained as strong as ever throughout his 20 years of service.
Upon retiring in 1992, Davis took a job in Balch Springs, Texas, at a weekly paper. He described the Suburban Tribune as, “an old, dumpy office.” It was experience through immersion in its purest form as Davis was the only reporter. He covered every beat full time for two years.
“Even though it was in probably one of the poorest parts of Dallas County, I still got to compete with some of the writers from the Dallas News,” Davis said. “It was always kind of neat to compare my writing to theirs.”
The death of the Suburban’s editor, Ken Milstead, found Davis taking a yearlong hiatus from writing. He cleaned airplanes during this time as he searched for another newspaper position. Paydirt was finally found in the form of the Madison Journal in Tallulah, La.
Working at another weekly where he was one of two writers further honed Davis’ skills in photography, page layout and writing.
Living in what Davis described as a “sad” city also opened his eyes to the difference between perception and reality.
It was the late 1990s, but there was still a racial divide larger than the bayou running through the middle of town.
“They integrated the schools, but they didn’t really integrate,” Davis said. “A bayou ran through town. Many white people moved over to one side while the black people and poor whites lived on the other side.”
Several years later found Davis following the pattern of the Navy by packing up and moving to Ponca City, Okla. He was 12 miles south of the Kansas border and working at his first daily newspaper. Writing at two weeklies prior had honed Davis’ skills, but he still had another lesson to learn.
Admitted Davis, “At the daily, I had to learn deadlines — daily deadlines.”
Covering the courts, county and sports beats at the Ponca City News proved interesting, if a little sad. Many of the court cases dealt with car wrecks, suicides, murders and drownings. Davis was on staff at that newspaper when the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball team’s plane crashed in 2001. He interviewed the athletic director at Northern Oklahoma Community College near Ponca City whose son had died in the crash.
Later, he interviewed the district attorney who had arraigned Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
As time passed, Davis decided to move again when his wife, Jeanie, took a liking to Tennessee on a family visit.
Moving did not upset Davis.
“I’m happy wherever I am. That is one of the things I learned in the Navy,” Davis said. “Wherever you go you have to take yourself with you. If you aren’t happy with yourself, then you are not happy with anyone else.”
Although the Cleveland Daily Banner provided Davis with a job, there was no set beat when he was hired. Instead, Davis turned to Polk County for his first news stories and features. Time would later allow him the opportunity to cover city, county and the general news.
Arriving in Cleveland in 2003 gave Davis a front-row seat to a developing Cleveland.
“It kind of [grew] overnight. Cleveland has always been a growing city, but when we first got here you could drive with hardly any traffic at all,” Davis said. “You could leave five minutes before you needed to be somewhere and get there in time.”
When Jeanie passed away in 2009, Davis asked for his old position at the Ponca City News in Oklahoma, where Jeanie is buried.
One thing changed his mind.
“When I got back to Cleveland, I realized all my friends were here,” Davis said. “Some time during the six years I was here, somehow Cleveland became my home.”
Writing is still a love of Davis’, but he is ready for a new schedule. As he said, his least favorite aspect of working in the newspaper business has always been the hours. It is not necessarily in his nature to say, “No, I don’t have time to do that [story].”
Davis will continue to reside in Cleveland with his wife, Carmen.
“David has been a fixture at the Cleveland Daily Banner for the past decade,” said Rick Norton, Cleveland Daily Banner associate editor. “I’m not sure which we’ll miss the most — his versatility in being able to handle just about any role within the newsroom or the community’s familiarity with his work and his unconditional objectivity, regardless of the assignment.
“David and Carmen have earned this chance to enjoy another side of life, one that is less hectic and more suited for enjoying one another’s company. It won’t be the same around the newsroom, but then change is a big part of life. I wish them well, as does everyone at the Banner.”