"Happy Birthday" to a mentor and friend

When Anders Gyllenhaal, the News & Observer’s then-executive editor, hired me as a columnist from Indiana 28 years ago, he instructed me to get acquainted with the region, meet its movers and shakers – and not to write anything for a month.

To me, that was Kool & the Gang, since I’d be getting paid essentially to do what I was going to be doing anyway.

Three weeks after arriving at the newspaper, those instructions led to this heart-warming scene as I strolled through the newspaper’s hallways one morning and ran into the publisher, Frank Daniels Jr.:

Me: Good morning, Frank.


As I explained the instructions given me by Gyllenhaal, the uncle of Hollywood stars Maggie and Jake, Daniels snorted “Hmmph,” and continued down the hallway to his office.

Despite that unsettling and unpromising introduction, working for Frank turned out to be a highlight of not just my career, but of my life. Twentyfive years after he sold the newspaper, he and I still occasionally get together for lunch to catch up and talk about our shared passion – newspapers.

On Sept. 7, Frank turned 90 years old, and The Saunders Report is delighted to wish him “Happy Birthday.”