The seed that became Plastics News was planted in fall 1988, when Crain Communications Inc. approved the publication's launch. Then the fun began.
Crain publishers Bob Simmons and Chris Chrisman plucked me from my seven-year posting with Crain's monthly European Rubber Journal in London to return to Akron, Ohio, to build an editorial team to produce North America's first weekly plastics newspaper.
Our plan: As quickly as possible, create a high-frequency, news-driven publication to serve the thousands of North American plastics processing companies whose actions seldom merited scrutiny anywhere but in their community newspapers. Our mission: Provide independent, multisourced, timely coverage and analysis of plastics companies, markets, trade associations, people, events and legislation.
We had little more than four months to learn a lot more about the industry and its players; design a newspaper; hire staff; build an audit-worthy circulation list of 60,000 names; create and promote an identity; market and try to sell our concept (not to mention ads) to a very skeptical audience; and actually produce a tangible, high-quality newspaper each week.
Unlike many prospective readers, we never worried about finding enough news to fill an issue every week. The large, dynamic plastics industry would see to that.
We knew Plastics News would differ sharply not only in frequency and format, but also in substance and style, from anything the plastics market had seen before. But it wasn't easy to explain or convey that to others. We simply had to publish and let the newspaper speak for itself. It didn't take long.
A straightforward business news story in one of our first issues, about a divorce that threatened to rip apart one of America's largest automotive molders, caused a furor among some readers, who felt it was sensational tabloid trash. Such stories ran frequently in respectable daily papers such as the Wall Street Journal, but never in a ``trade publication.''
Our hard-hitting, controversial editorial columns put everyone on notice that we would not follow in the trade press's supplier-friendly pattern of never treading on toes.
And our weekly chart tracking U.S. market resin prices — as opposed to list prices — (at a time when prices were falling sharply) prompted fury among the same resin producers that our embattled salesmen were trying to coax into buying space to support our new paper.
Those early days were exhausting but exhilarating, as our daily-style journalism provoked strong reactions. Our competitors quickly dubbed us the National Plastics Enquirer since we ran controversial stories they wouldn't dare touch.
We rather enjoyed our role as underdog and upstart. And our early surroundings — in unfinished office space with bare concrete floors and no overhead lighting — fed the feeling.
Those days also were not without trauma. Hours after we triumphantly completed work on our debut March 6 issue, a serious car accident nearly killed executive editor Carl Kirkland, who had brought much plastics industry experience with him when he joined us from Plastics World magazine.
Thankfully, Carl recovered fully. But he resigned in summer 1989 to return to New York.
Only two others on our original editorial staff of 10 had any prior plastics experience. It was easy to understand why so many doubted we would succeed. After all, who could ever break the stranglehold on the market held by Modern Plastics, which had more than a half-century head start on us?
One well-known plastics industry advertising and marketing executive in New York predicted Plastics News would fold by the end of 1989. Others, who knew Crain's strong track record and commitment to such start-up projects, were more generous — they gave us a year or two.
Ron Shinn, then managing editor (now special projects director at Injection Molding Magazine), and assistant managing editor Angela Charles (now managing director of the online Polysort service) provided strong hands in PN's early years.
Three other editorial staffers who were on our first issue's masthead continue to make strong contributions to the publication today — assistant managing editors Jeannie Reall and Lisa Sarkis Neaville and senior reporter Bill Bregar. This trio, together with Managing Editor Don Loepp and editorial research coordinator Freyda Sussman, both of whom joined PN in 1991, and the rest of our talented staff, worked tirelessly to produce this anniversary issue.
We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.