‘I think it would be fun to run a newspaper’ Print
Thursday, Jul. 16, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

For those of you out there wanting to know more about the new guy, the above headline of my first official editorial may give you some hint as to my personality and interests — I’m an old movie fan.

In taking this position at the Catholic Herald, there was no way I was going to let an opportunity pass by to quote the line from Citizen Kane — “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper”.

Those that have seen the 1941 classic know the line, and I certainly hope my fate later in life is not isolation in my own “Xanadu”-like castle.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, you should.

Now that that little bit of fun is out of the way, I can connect said quote to something a little more serious — the reality that I’m in charge of the Catholic Herald now.

If I was going to connect this reality with my musical interests, instead of my film interests, I could have called this piece “And you may ask yourself, well, ‘How did I get here?’” but we’ll save the Talking Heads references for another time.

Here I sit in the editor’s office and at the editor’s desk, wondering what being in charge is supposed to be like, knowing that several months ago, I was still just the lowly reporter here.

While reflecting upon the “fun” quote, I remembered something else.

I remembered another time a person was put in charge of a news organization in his 30s and that was a further reminder to me of the people I’ve had in my life that have prepared me for this moment.

Remembering and thanking my bosses

I still feel awkward being called the unofficial title of “boss,” but I guess it’s true. That’s what I am now to the staff here.

Being an “employee” for nearly a decade-and-a-half in various news outlets, I’ve had a few bosses myself.

Some of these people, and my experiences with them, I’ll look back on and look to for guidance and influence.

The late John Hoffland was the first person who hired me out of college in 2006.

He was the news director at WEAU in Eau Claire, a “triple digit market” TV station where he had a reputation for hiring “kids” right out of college and giving them their start — as he did for me when I worked there first as a photographer and reporter and later a producer.

In the late 1970s, when he was given the top job, an apocryphal story said John’s reaction was, “I think this is going to be a lot of fun.”

There’s that word again — fun.

You’ll find John’s name in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame for his contributions to the business.

Sadly, John passed away in 2009 shortly before I left Eau Claire to move back to Madison. In the short time I worked under him, he taught me the importance of “excellence in coverage, superior coverage, and thoroughness in coverage”.

His picture is the first one I put on my new desk.

Chris Gegg, former news director at WMTV a.k.a. “NBC15,” was my boss for more than three years.

During my time there as a producer, Chris had a way of always pushing me to do better with a respectful attitude of “if you’ve think you’ve done enough, do more.”

He also instilled in me the idea of not letting format dictate coverage, or basically, just because we’ve presented the news that way the first three days of the week, don’t think we need to be stuck doing it that way for the remainder of the week, if the stories call for something new to get the word out there.

He also emphasized the values of making the content fit our audience and not being stuck in our newsroom bubble where we can sometimes find ourselves disconnected from the average person, buried in our copy and show rundowns.

And, of course, I have to mention my predecessor, longtime Catholic Herald Editor Mary C. Uhler.

Her 34 years as the driving force behind this paper is a testament to her efforts in making sure every week she and her staff put out the best work possible.

The numerous awards and honors given to her and the paper over the years prove a fair amount of what she did is a model to follow.

With John, Chris, and Mary as my “boss” mentors, I’ve been pretty lucky blessed.

To the future

As I sit here in July of 2020, I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I think this could be a lot of fun.

The first Catholic Herald Editor Fr. (later Msgr.) Andrew Breines didn’t know what would happen next when the paper was started in 1948.

Mary didn’t know what would come next when she took over for him in 1986.

Over their ensuing decades of leadership, each of my predecessor met head-on a changing world, challenges in the Church, and new technology.

They both established a legacy for this publication and created a tradition that is, thankfully, still with us in this diocese.

All I can really do is try to do the same things.

While some part of this job will be fun, I, and everyone here, will never forget the importance of our mission to make disciples.

My journey, our journey, awaits.

Wherever we’re all going, let’s get there together.

I told my staff last week that I have consecrated my time as editor to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As I close this first editorial, I ask us all to pray:

Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us!