Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 21, 2005

End of an era with editor’s departure

“Any person that don’t read at least one well-written country newspaper is not truly informed.” ~ Will Rogers

An era ended at the Morgan Hill Times when longtime executive editor Walt Glines was promoted to director of circulation, sales and operations for Mainstreet Media Group earlier this month.

I owe my journalism career to Walt and his willingness to take a chance a non-traditional reporter candidate like me. When I responded to an advertisement for a staff writer in June of 2000, I’m not sure what I was thinking. My daughter, my youngest child, was nearing the end of her two-and-a-half year chemotherapy treatment for leukemia and about to enter kindergarten. I guess I knew that I needed something to take the place of the full-time job of managing her health care.

Because Walt was willing to consider a candidate without a journalism degree, without any experience at newspapers, and who didn’t know AP style from an inverted pyramid, I found a field I loved.

“I believe that the country weekly acts as a form of social cement in holding the community together.” ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

I’m sure that other factors helped me land the job. I had subscribed to The Times as soon as we moved to Morgan Hill in September of 1996. That was important to Walt because it showed an interest in my community. The fact that his longtime city beat reporter was moving out of state in a few days didn’t hurt my chances either.

But those weren’t the most important factors. Because Walt knew that a passion for news, a healthy sense of curiosity, the ability to write, and concern for the community were key attributes for a reporter at a small-town paper, I was able to learn the rest on the job. As I covered city council, planning commission, school board, county supervisor and a host of other meetings, I learned why and how to write a story in inverted pyramid format with a short lead. I learned the intricacies of the AP style guide. Eventually, I was laying out pages, learning principles of story and photo placement, and the unique craft of writing headlines. I learned how to write an obituary, how to break a big story, what questions to ask about a fire, what to include in a budget or real estate story, how to quote sources accurately, how to write a balanced article, how to cultivate relationships with sources, and more from Walt.

“Being a reporter is as much a diagnosis as a job description.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Thanks to Walt, I finally had a “diagnosis” for my habit of turning nearly every job I held into a writing job, for my addiction to news, current events, and politics, and for my questioning nature: I was a journalist. I left The Times after 15 months to become city editor at its sister paper, The Dispatch, an opportunity I would not have had if Walt had not taken a chance on an unlikely reporter candidate.

And although I’m now working in the financially greener high-tech world, I’m happily unable to leave the newspaper world completely. I continue to write my column, and I still participate on the newspaper’s editorial board. Without Walt, I wouldn’t have had those chances, either.

“I am not an editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.” ~ Mark Twain

Being the editor of a community newspaper is not an easy job. The editor is the lightning rod for disgruntled readers, whether it’s because they didn’t get their paper on time or because they perceive a slant in the paper’s coverage. I’m glad Walt’s still involved with the newspaper chain, but I can understand why he might desire a break from the editing side of the business.

But his departure is Morgan Hill’s loss. I know from long and close observation that Walt truly cares about South Valley in general, and Morgan Hill in particular.

I wish the new editor good luck, and I’m looking forward to the energy and ideas he’ll bring to The Times, which has been operating since 1894. Walt led the paper for a dozen years, and leaves big shoes to be filled. I hope the new editor can make The Times as accurate a mirror of Morgan Hill and South Valley as Walt did in his 12-year tenure.

“A newspaper is a mirror reflecting the public, a mirror more or less defective, but still a mirror.” ~ Arthur Brisbane

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