COLUMNS

From the Editor’s Desk: Our Years with Wynne

Marlys Barker

My first general manager at the Nevada Journal, Annette Forbes — a native of Nevada who lives in nearby Ames — once told me: “Don’t ever worry about hiring people who are smarter than you. They’ll only make you look better.”

Those were sound words that I took to heart. I’ve hired many reporters over the years who were, no doubt, smarter than me — especially as I got older, because kids today are technologically tough to beat.

And then about 10 years back or so, I hired a person who I knew from the beginning was way smarter than me, Wynne Landgraf.

She was one of those “sciency” people who had retired from a long career with the NVSL lab. That’s a whole different kind of smart. Did I really want to bring someone that smart into my midst?

I called her to test it out on the phone, and I asked her right away, “Why would you want to come and work for a whole lot less money in a newspaper office?”

As most who know her can attest, she came back with a quick and decisive reply — because she’s never one to not have an answer. Her answer was, “I’m bored.” She went on to tell me that sitting at home, staring at the walls, just wasn’t her thing.

I hired her.

Her smarts were sometimes threatening to a few in the office — that’s back in the day when we had an office and people in it. We had a full-time reporter, part-time reporter, graphic artist, two ad sales people, our sports editor and myself. We were located in that cute little “house-like” office building across from the fire station at the time.

Wynne would come in promptly every day. In fact, in all our years together, I think she only called in sick maybe once. She was punctual, could work the flexible, part-time schedule I needed her to work and that’s how it all began.

Through those next few years the company moved our full-time sales rep to Ames and eliminated the part-time reporter position and the graphic arts position. By the time we moved uptown, it was down to just Wynne, Lauri Dodd (our inside sales rep), Joe Randleman (the sports guy), one full-time reporter who eventually was replaced by a half-time page layout person, the occasional summer intern and myself.

We loved being downtown again. I think Wynne liked being right up front by those big windows, where she could see who walked by at any given time and her plants had plenty of sunlight to absorb.

Wynne kept the plants and the front office going. She has always been organized to a T and efficient in whatever typesetting or proofing task that she was asked to do. Her smarts have been the “hidden magic” of our newspaper for a number of years. She’s caught a multitude of errors in copy and even in ads so that they never reached the light of day.

Sometimes she could be a little too forthright. “This sounds stupid,” she might say about something I’d written. Sometimes hearing that makes you feel awful, but I learned to realize that Wynne had mine, and all of our other writers’ best interest at heart. She might sometimes say things a little gruffly, but she was our biggest supporter, and just like a mom dressing her kids for church, Wynne always wanted us to look our very best in the print product.

Those of us who worked together in that last main street location for the Journal had great times, and we all have our own favorite memories about Wynne. We liked looking at her beautiful rock collection, some of which she showcased on her desk.

I personally loved that she was a jewelry maker in her spare time, and my Christmas presents from Wynne over the years have added some exquisite pieces to my necklace and earring collection.

I loved that many people in town accepted Wynne’s “tell it like it is” way of sharing something, and came in to ask for her help with any problems they were having getting the paper or whatnot, because they knew Wynne would take care of it for them. And she did!

When our office was closed several years ago, Lauri was moved to Ames, our layout person was eliminated and Joe, Wynne and I did most of our work from home. Wynne has continued, from her basement, to help Joe and myself get news items ready and proof stories and pages, so that we could put out the best product we were capable of printing.

This is Wynne’s last week with our newspapers. She is going to officially retire at the end of this week, and I guess, stare at the walls! Actually, she’s going to enjoy spending more time with Dennis, her partner, and with all her wonderful friends. And I hope one of those friends is me.

As most of you know, I’m going to be leaving the newspapers also in the coming weeks to pursue another career opportunity, but this column isn’t meant to go into my next phase of life. I want this column to honor Wynne for all the hours she’s put in making the rest of us look our best.

Wynne, many thanks to you for everything. Enjoy your retirement!

Marlys Barker is editor of the Nevada Journal and Tri-County Times.