Life lessons

Friday Was The Last Day

By that, I mean my last day as an editor-in-chief overseeing three daily newspapers. Yes, I am finally leaving journalism after over 35 years in the business.

Retiring? I guess I could say that. But it’s actually my second time.

The first was in 2016 as editor-in-chief of the Taos News in New Mexico. I kept my hand in it doing book reviews, but I also helped adults working to get their GED and taught creative writing to kids in fourth grade. After we resettled in Western Massachusetts, I saw a classified ad that the Greenfield Recorder was seeking an editor. A couple of months later I was leading the daily newspaper, then later that year, I picked up another. And over a year ago, I was asked to lead the company’s papers in Northampton. That’s when I became the Pioneer Valley editor-in-chief. I only intended to continue for one year and that’s what happened.

Jan. 7 was my official last day although I will stay on four more weeks to help in the transition for the person taking over my role. I want him to succeed. I want the papers to thrive. People need local journalism, these papers’ forte.

Now I will concentrate on my own writing — the novels I write — and do some freelance editing. I have other plans.

When I was a kid, I never thought I would be a journalist although I will admit a fascination with newspapers. But being a reporter, columnist, and editor taught me a great deal about writing, and frankly, being an author has always been my dream. As a reporter, I had to pay attention to what people said, how they said it, and the way they behaved. I practiced writing nearly every day. My lessons continued when I became an editor. Journalists are supposed to be fair, objective, and accurate. Fortunately, I can abandon that in my fiction.

The best part of being a journalist for that long was the people I’ve met and certainly, the ones I worked with. I have a treasure trove of experiences.

Along the way I learned how to be a boss. I recall being sent to a one-day conference. The one useful thing I learned was that when employees were asked what was most important to them, the number one response was feeling appreciated. A light went off.

Making the people that “work under me” feel appreciated has been a goal ever since. I am fiercely protective of my staff — I joke I am the mother wolf and these are my pups — but naturally a few times, I have had to deal with serious internal problems.

Then, there are the readers and sources. For the sake of objectivity, I may be friendly but they are not my friends. How have I dealt with those who are unhappy with coverage, in particular rude and/or threatening people? I will listen. If they’re right, I will admit it. If it’s a standoff, well it’s that ol’ we will have to agree to disagree. The one thing I will not tolerate is someone swearing at me. I hang up.

On Friday, I removed the last bit of personal items in my old office and moved to a desk in the newsroom. As I worked on the Saturday paper, I joked it was more fun out there. We had pie — thanks to the news editor. I was presented gifts and a card with touching comments from the staff.

Yes, it has been a great run. Thank you.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Paul Franz, photo editor for the Recorder, took that photo of me for a story.






9 thoughts on “Friday Was The Last Day

  1. Dianne Pola says:

    Congratulations, Joan. With certainty, Your retirement from the newspaper industry will unleash your time and creativity.

  2. I felt lucky you ran my “editorials’ in the Taos News and thought you were especially good at your job. I finally wrote the book I promised myself I’d write—Little Tin Heart—available on Amazon. You can see the 14-minute talk I would’ve given if it weren’t for the pandemic by going to YouTube and on YouTube’s Search typing in Suzy T. Kane the Writing Experience. Good luck on your book. I’m confident you can do it. I’d like to read it.

  3. Amy Peck Murphy says:

    Proud — and fortunate — to have been a longtime friend of yours, and a particularly close one when we were immersed in raising our children in that small, wonderful town of Worthington; you have always been caring, smart, and sincere — qualities not often found in those we meet along life’s journey! Now that we are living on different coasts, life has made it somewhat challenging to keep in touch. Still, I am so happy for your culmination of your successful “Newz Biz” journey, and so excited to see how much you’re loving being an author. Kudos, Joan, to a woman whose ambition — and talents — continue to impress!! — With much affection, Amy

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