I’ve been lucky as a journalist to work with and for many
good editors. I’ve never been particularly ashamed of any of the publishers, but I can say, without hesitation, that there’s just one I’ve been truly proud of.
The passing this week of Betty Quadracci left many in mourning – her family, the staff of
this magazine, the community for which she and her late husband were
considerable benefactors, and her friends. I add my name to the list. As a
long-time freelance contributor, I appreciated her recognition of my work on
several occasions – delivered in low-key style, but with palpable and honest
Idealistic journalists can be a bit contradictory about
publishers. We want them to leave us alone to dig out and publish our stories, yet at the same time, we at least grudgingly admire the
ones – too rare – who use the enormous media power they command to stand for
“Betty Quad,” as she sometimes informally called herself,
was an unabashed representative of that second tradition. More than a decade
ago, then-editor John Fennell published,
in place of his monthly editor’s column, a speech she’d given on the role of
the magazine and the importance of its independence to the integrity of its
work and to the fortunes of its advertisers. It was called “The First Amendment
Starts Here” – and it captured the spirit that I’ve always felt as a writer
fortunate enough to appear in Milwaukee
Betty is missed, deeply, by many. But that spirit remains.
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