“Guess what day it is?” Anthony Borders, the North Bay Business Journal’s editor and event content manager, teases his staff on any given Wednesday’s daily Zoom call as a takeoff of the popular Geico camel television commercial.
As staff writer Jeff Quackenbush groans at the notion of cornball humor, others play along with glee, answering: “It’s hump day.”
All laugh and get along with the business news of the day.
After seven years with NBBJ and a storied journalism career of almost a half-century, Borders, 70, is leaving the business publication — with a wide-open path before him.
“I have no specific plans. I’ve always been open to new chapters in my life,” Borders said.
Allison Gibson, The Press Democrat’s senior editor of multimedia and innovation, becomes the business journal’s interim editor. Gibson, a 30-year journalism veteran, served as news director for NBC-television affiliate KWWL in Waterloo, Iowa, prior to joining the SMI team in 2021.
“We’re all going to miss Anthony, and I wish him great success moving forward. I’m incredibly excited about leading the award-winning staff on an interim basis,” Gibson said.
Borders affectionately looks back at his time with NBBJ, unable to put his finger on any one memory that stands out over others.
“It’s the whole experience (I remember) — a progression of accomplishments,” he said.
That doesn’t mean he’s not at times surprised by how the news can come together amid demands and chaos — all in the name of readership.
“We give readers a solid product, and they can rely on us,” he said.
Borders was described by his colleagues as a loyal, steady, humble, experienced, caring individual who seemed to move mountains to keep them and readers happy.
Beyond enjoying a sense of accomplishment that includes a list of awards and accolades, Borders said he will miss his colleagues.
“I get to work with great people. We’re a small team — and all support each other. It’s been a joy to be able to guide that,” he said.
From the California desert to its mountains and onto its Wine Country, the road for the Napa resident began as a beat reporter at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs in 1976, where he returned as an editor, and onto the Tahoe Daily Tribune from 1978 to 1981.
He also worked for the Riverside-based Press Enterprise and in a public relations stint at Donor Network West before joining the SMI team.
People along the path
“I remember Anthony’s first day working at the NBBJ like it was yesterday,” editorial researcher Michelle Fox said.
“NBBJ was just taking on a new look with a redesign of the entire layout when Anthony started. He embraced the project like he had been doing it forever and led the editorial team to what it is now.”
But it was the personal relationship that employees mentioned most often.
“Whether your part is big or small, he makes you feel that you are an important part of the team,” she added.
NBBJ staff writer Cheryl Sarfaty refers to Borders as “the cream of the crop,” and with good reason.
He often treated his staff to the baked delights of doughnuts from Butter Cream Bakery in Napa, driving around to each staffer’s home offices in Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol and Rohnert Park to deliver the special breakfast.
“He’s quite an individual. I hired Anthony at a time when we needed to bring in a seasoned editor who could come into a (business-to-business paper), and not only that, someone who understood business,” said Brad Bollinger, the retired NBBJ publisher.
“People told me: ‘You just need a unicorn.’”
Bollinger, who once served as the business editor to the SMI flagship, The Press Democrat, before moving to NBBJ’s editor and publisher, shared a general news background with Borders. The SMI group bought the papers in 2012.
“He made for a wonderful manager. We were very fortunate to find him,” Bollinger said of his “personal and professional friend” and colleague.
“Anthony was the kind of professional if there was something that needed to be done, he had already done it,” he added. “What the paper is today is largely due to him.”
That level of trust is something Lorez Bailey, who came aboard as NBBJ’s current publisher about two years ago, said she’s come to rely on.
“Anthony helped me transition into this role. We’ve had such a deep, mutual respect for each other. He made me better. I leaned on his deep, extensive knowledge,” she said.
“With Anthony, I always trusted that I knew (a project) was going to happen. He was my steady rock I could always depend on,” Bailey said. “I will miss his calm demeanor and sense of humor, but we’re reaping the good benefits. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”
North Bay Leadership Council President and CEO Cynthia Murray, a regular NBBJ reader and supporter, refers to Borders as “old school.”
“We had a good relationship. I appreciated how he always tried to dig deeper into the community and have that deeper connection. He was always really interested and wanted to know more — not just look for the sound bite,” she said.
“And he took the time to get it right.”
Borders will be missed by not only readers and the NBBJ staff, but also the broader Sonoma Media Investment organization, said Richard Green, editor of The Press Democrat and chief content officer of the parent company.
“If we’re lucky in this industry that we all love, we get the chance to work with truly outstanding journalists,” Green said in a staff email announcing Borders’ departure. “And occasionally, the added bonus is working with not only a talented person, but also a darn fine human being.”
“We all thank Anthony for his years of service and incredible contributions,” he said. “We will build on his commitment to excellence and work hard to serve our readers in new ways.”
Green added, “And I’m very excited that Allison is shifting into this role during an important time of transition. Her experience, market knowledge and love of journalism will benefit our NBBJ team and the many readers it serves.”