"A bittersweet goodbye" to exiting WSJ names

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Posted by madcityradio.com on October 02, 2008 at 07:06:11:

A bittersweet goodbye to colleagues

In the past few days, your journalists at the Wisconsin State Journal began to celebrate the many contributions of some veteran players in our newsroom. Five staffers with a combined service of more than 170 years have chosen to take a buyout.
We will miss these cherished colleagues, and today I wanted to honor them with this goodbye column.

Leaving us are: Jean Petersen, features assistant; Bill Wineke, columnist; Joseph W. Jackson III, photographer; Anita Clark, reporter; and Ron Larson, chief librarian.

Jean Petersen's career at the State Journal spanned 40 years and included daily tasks that kept our newsroom humming. If you've called with a complaint about the TV book, puzzles or comics, it's likely that Jean cheerfully helped you. She was the first person I met who rode her bike to work. Four years ago this was a novelty. Now the bike racks on both sides of the building are full.

"Jean was the most joyful person any of us could hope to run across," said Chris Juzwik, features editor and Jean's most recent supervisor.

Bill Wineke also started at the State Journal in the 1960s. His official start date is in 1969. But he reminds me that he started part-time in 1963, left to get a graduate degree in theology and returned in 1969. Unofficially, Bill is our most senior staffer, our institutional memory of the way things were and the conscience of the way things ought to be.

Bill went on assignment in exotic places, such as London (the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer) and Minocqua (the opening of the Howard Young Medical Center, dedicated by actress Elizabeth Taylor). He covered medicine and religion among other issues. He wrote a weekly children's story called "Weird Willie" for 21 years, edited the book pages and chronicled the philanthropy of Empty Stocking Club donors for many years.

Bill filled a role as an adviser to the editor, gently reminding me during the past four-and-a-half years when I stepped on toes because of my ignorance about the history of the place and letting me know when he didn't agree with my decisions. I always could count on Bill to save me from myself, and I will dearly miss that counsel just as the newsroom lunch table will miss his provocative conversation.

At almost every community event that I attend, someone tells me that he or she is a friend of

Joe Jackson. Everyone in our newsroom feels the same way. Joe grew up in Madison and comes from a long line of luminaries. Joe followed their legacy with his photography, marking the important events in Madison since 1975.

Joe was the first staff member who invited me out to lunch (I admit I sort of invited myself) on a noon cruise to Culver's with fellow photographer John Maniaci. He also was the first staffer to invite me to his house. That night he and his wife, Linda, taught me about prairie restoration and helped me better understand how important nature and environmentalism are to Madison-area residents.

Joe said that being a photographer at the State Journal was his dream career. He said he loved being artful and nosy.

"My cameras have been my passport into the lives of so many wonderful people in Madison and around Wisconsin," he said. "I have photographed many presidents, a pope and a Super Bowl. But I have always loved interacting with people the most."

Anita Clark's impressive reporting skills were obvious to me in our almost daily chats at the infamous reporters' table in our cafeteria. She introduced me to some of the most interesting secrets of Madison, including the farm that delivers organic produce to Capital Newspapers. She also counseled me on many topics including the intricacies of Fitchburg, her current hometown.

A prize-winning reporter, Anita worked many long days and nights as an assistant city editor, one of the most difficult and exhausting jobs in any newsroom. When I asked her about these days, she said in her characteristic upbeat manner how proud she was of "a great team of reporters and fellow editors." She added: "We were proud of our work and proud of our newspaper."

Anita is known for her watchdog reporting on criminal justice and won a national award for stories on the recall of Judge Archie Simonson and the election of Judge Moria Krueger.

The State Journal has been a family affair for Ron Larson. His grandfather, Iver M. Kalnes, was a columnist and reporter here in the 1930s. Ron wrote a book, "Little Visits With A Journal Reporter," about Kalnes.

"Those columns are just a small example of the rich treasures that are contained in the Wisconsin State Journal archives, and for three decades I was lucky to hold the key to the treasure chest," Ron said.

Ron and I share a love of history, and during my short tenure here he has helped me connect with the past of the newspaper, city and state as I plan for our future.

Today is bittersweet. We thank these colleagues for their long-tenured service and for their achievement, which we will build on. We wish them well and we are a bit jealous of their new adventures in life after journalism. One thing is assured, we will never forget them.

(Ellen Foley, Wisconsin State Journal)

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