|4/24/2013 2:55:00 PM|
The loss of a mentor
Minnesota lost a great newspaper man on Wednesday.
I lost a great mentor.
Ken Anderson was the man who hired me as the Citizen sports editor back in December 1983. I was fresh out of college, having just completed an internship with the Daily Globe sports staff in Worthington.
That December, I had interviews at a newspaper in Denison, Iowa, and the Citizen. Having grown up and gone to college in Northwest Iowa, the pull to work in my home state was great.
But I credit some wise words from the Daily Globe's managing editor at the time, Paul Gruchow, a man I admired and respected. When he learned of my options, he didn't sway me one way or the other, but only said, "If you go to Windom, you'll be working with a good newspaper man. You'll learn a lot."
While I was leaning toward taking the job in Windom, that cinched it for me. It was a decision I have never regretted - at least not now.
However, when I first started at the Citizen, I definitely had reservations. Each week he would critique the newspaper with his red felt-tip pen, making notes as to how stories could have been written better, or pictures cropped more appropriately, or headlines packed with more punch. He would do this with each of his reporters.
Because there was so much red on the pages when he was finished, we used to refer to Ken's critiques as "bleeding all over the pages." Moreover, we wondered if he really still wanted us as employees, judging from the mistakes we had made.
On top of that, I had just graduated from college and thought I knew it all. I didn't need someone teaching me Journalism 101 again.
Oh, how wrong I was. Although my writing may sometimes indicate I failed to hear a word or understand a jotting Ken offered, I found those critiques invaluable. To this day, I find myself remembering the instruction Ken gave me during my first years in Windom.
As Ken eased into retirement, his "bloodied" newspapers became fewer and fewer. And as they became fewer and fewer, I wanted to see more and more. When Ken's son, Kim, dropped off a critiqued newspaper, Rahn and I would battle over who got to see it first. Invariably, we would look at his corrections and say, "Of course, that's the way it should have been written."
Over the years, his critiqued newspapers not only became fewer, but they became less "red." However, we didn't believe we had become better writers. We suspected Ken was enjoying retirement. Indeed, the less constructive criticism we received, the more we longed for it.
Paul Gruchow was absolutely correct: Windom had a good newspaper man and I did learn a lot from him. We'll miss you, Ken Anderson. You were a great writer and an even better mentor.