Charting a different course
Occasionally, when someone sitting next to me at an industry luncheon asks me how I came to cover the shipping industry, I tell the story about a crime of passion.
During the first part of my journalism career, I worked at general circulation newspapers. The newer guys inevitably seem to get put on the police beat. It's actually quite exciting when you're cutting your teeth in the newspaper business, and I was getting pretty good at that specialty. Then one day, I was doing a story about a crime of passion, murder, and it dawned on me: the main difference between this story and other crimes of passion stories is the names and addresses change. The main story is the same, and after a while it wasn't very appealing.
I immediately asked to switch beats, and soon got assigned to the state legislature — snoozeville on most days — and eventually moved to New York City to scare up some excitement. There, I landed a job at the trade magazine Shipping Digest, and truly set off on a new course.
International trade and transportation services fascinated me. After covering the industry for several years, I was still learning new things. This industry is never boring, and never seems to loose its appeal. Things change so continuously that it essentially reinvents itself every few years.
Between international economic fluctuations, legal and political shifts of all stripes, new equipment, industry consolidation and, most significantly, giant strides in computer technology, the market has been completely transformed again and again.
The story continues to evolve, and in the next several years, there will be many major changes in Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America. Trade patterns are shifting, and the shipping industry and support services are gearing up for a growing wave of trade that will be dependent on increased handling capacity on the U.S. East Coast and throughout the Americas.
The companies in this industry have a lot of changes in store — mostly for the good, I believe — and they each have their own story to tell. But the changes will require skilled explanations, and with that in mind, I am making a move from third-party observer to become more of a direct participant.
Next week, I will be leaving my friends at American Shipper and establishing the Jim Dow Agency, a specialty communications and public relations company focused on businesses involved with the shipping industry. I will continue to be based in South Florida, specifically in Pembroke Pines. I will remain in touch with the many people I have covered in this ever-exciting industry, as well as the many skilled journalists with whom I have cordial and established relationships. As I move on, I would like to extend a special thanks to American Shipper staff and the Howard family, for whom I have great respect and admiration.—Jim Dow