Repurposed Journalist: Safeway’s Ron Rutherford and a Good Finish

Posted: July 4, 2018 in employment
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Ron Rutherford – Liquor Manager/Beverage Steward

I bumped into him quite by accident. I was in the Gilman Street Safeway in Issaquah looking for a hearty red wine to go with the steak we were having that evening. As I turned from the wine rack, my coat caught on a bottle on one of the lower shelves. It fell, landing on the thick glass of the bottom of the bottle. Amazingly, when it hit the floor, it bounced up and landed upright. I was lucky but the noise shocked me. Hearing the commotion, the wine department manager rushed around the wine shelf to see what had happened. I recognized him immediately.

Ron Rutherford.

I knew Ron from my days as a feature reporter at KIRO 7 in the mid-90’s. He started there as a weekend producer, 7pm producer and filled in at 5pm, which is where I met him. Then he went on to produce the morning show. Rutherford was in the news business as a producer or director from 1985 to 1997. After a few years at CRISTA Ministries, he took a job at SearchEase.com, writing editing and managing content for a monthly newsletter that reached more than 65,000 subscribers to TAOnline.com, which helps veterans find employment once their tour of duty is over. Then Rutherford took a job as the wine steward at Auburn Wine & Caviar. Today, while his business card reads Safeway Liquor Manager and Beverage Steward, he’s another Repurposed Journalist, telling stories.

He says, “We’ve got more than a thousand different bottles of wine on our shelves. A lot of people … they’re looking for something. So there’s always a story behind every bottle and telling that story, we’ve got probably 35 different Cabernets on the shelf, but you can find a different story that will help ‘sell’ that because people can engage that story and feel what you’re talking about and they’re willing to try that bottle because of it.”

In 2014, he was hired as Liquor Manager and Beverage Steward for Safeway. But Ron still smiles when he thinks back on his days chasing news, meeting a daily deadline.

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At KIRO, “I was a producer. I started out as the weekend producer and then,” he chuckles. “When KIRO went through the metamorphosis where Belo bought us,” he says, “I was actually laid off for about three months and then I got a call from the station asking, “Can you come in and help us out in the morning?” and I did. And then my return actually was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing (in 1995). I saw that was happening, I called. I said, “Do you guys need help?” and I just stayed.”

Rutherford tells me really doesn’t miss the news business. “No, I don’t. Because, John, it’s changed so much from when we were there. The news is not what it was. I was brought up that you gather the facts and then you presented it and let people decide what the story was. Now, it’s like there’s a preconceived notion of what the story is going to be and we try to filter the facts to make that story.”

JY:  But what did you get out of being a producer? Because you may not miss it, but I think it helped you in what you’re doing now.

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RR: “Well, I started my day with absolutely nothing and within eight hours I helped build an hour’s worth of news for the day and then once that’s all done then I have nothing again. And that’s what I feel here is that it gives you great organizational skills. It helps you in crisis management. Seriously, people here know that if there is a crisis going on that I’m one of the greatest people they can turn to because it’s just what I do. So those are things that I felt really good about.”

 

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JY: I talk to other former journalists and they tell me that they just learned how to do things faster. They developed storytelling muscle. They know how to identify what’s important and how to distill it and I think that you still have that.

RR: “Well, you do because … everything is based upon hours, minutes, and seconds and anytime that you can save time by doing something, that means you’re gonna have more time to do something else. So, it’s not always about how fast you can get it done but getting it done right so you don’t have to redo it the second time too. So it’s that combination of making sure that you know how to manage your time well and that is one of the things that I know has been… that was a big help for me.

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JY: What’s your favorite bottle of wine?

RR: “The one in my hand. I’ve had super expensive bottles of wine and I’ve had really inexpensive bottles of wine. Notice I didn’t say cheap. But I’ve had great bottles of wine and price doesn’t dictate what’s a great bottle. Sometimes it is the story. I look for what went into this bottle that makes it so good.”

JY: Do you still watch TV news?

RR: “When I used to be in the business, my wife never got to see an entire newscast because when I wasn’t working I was flipping channels to see where everything was. So now I get to actually sit back and enjoy it, if enjoy is the right word.”

RR: “There’s still some great productions that I see. There’s some great storytelling and I think that that part of it is still there, and that’s the part that I really enjoy seeing. What I believe that we sometimes miss is that… Well for me this is my personal opinion, the other night, we had Seattle Mariner pitcher, James Paxton, the man throws a no-hitter and by the way the team’s doing fairly well and so, to me that’s what people are talking about, and that’s what news should be, is that what are people talking about? But the lead story on one of the TV stations wasn’t Paxton, wasn’t anything to do with that. It was some sort of random attack where someone got hurt, and violence, and the police blotter and yada, yada, yada, yada. And I don’t think people are talking about that.”

RR: “I don’t know if we’re necessarily always looking at what people are interested in and what they want to hear. We’re feeding them what we think they want to hear, and we’re giving more doom and gloom. So, I try to look at life as glass being half-full instead of half-empty.”

 

JY: So, what’s your purpose now?

RR: “When I’m sitting in this department and I have someone come in, and they go, “Wow. I’m so glad you’re here. I need your help.” Because there are people who come in and search for my experience and expertise here. And that’s really a lot of fun, because it gives you a great sense of purpose in that they enjoy having you help them because they trust you. And I think that’s maybe my purpose, is gaining that trust and keeping that trust with people.”

JY: And a good finish, right?

RR: “Absolutely. A long finish.”

Repurposed Journalist Ron RutherfordRon Rutherford

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