Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bee editor: We do it all with readers in mind

Melissa Van Diepen
Melissa Van Diepen Modesto Bee

For generations, the men and women who work at this newspaper have called their product "The Daily Miracle."

While it's not really a miracle in the true sense of the word, The Bee's daily journey from dozens of 1-ton rolls of blank paper to the information-packed finished product that's delivered to tens of thousands of homes and businesses is an amazing accomplishment.

After more than 70 years as The Modesto Bee, our record is perfect: We've never missed a scheduled day of publication.

Which, I think, makes the people who produce The Bee miracle workers.

Why do they do it each and every day? A week ago, I shared some of our reporters' and editors' passion and purpose for what they do. Today, it's my privilege to share more thoughts from The Bee's newsroom.

Dan Day, managing editor/online:

For me, working at The Modesto Bee is not a job. It's a calling. Working as reporters, editors and photographers, we tell the story of our communities. We tell the story of who we are as a people at this place in time: our triumphs, our failures, our faults, our innate human decency. I'm grateful that so many people count on us to deliver the news of the day, and that I'm a part of that effort.

Sue Nowicki, reporter:

Since I started at The Bee more than 25 years ago, I've worked for almost every department in the newsroom and enjoyed all of it. Whether editing or writing for Sports, Business, Local News, the Opinions pages or Features, it's been a privilege to write news, trends, humor and profiles, and even take a few photographs along the way.

For the past two years, I've been telling stories of faith, a subject that stirs passion and arguments and inspiration and, sometimes, tears. It has been exhilarating to write of a woman who lost several family members, yet still is firm in her belief in a loving God; of pastors who often served for years without ever seeing their name in print; of ordinary men and women transformed by God; of Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Jews, and even the fascinating comments of atheists. I've barely scratched the surface, and plan to pursue more of your stories in the years to come. When the economy is bad, faith becomes even more important to people.

Deke Farrow, features editor:

I do what I do because I'm colorblind, which ended my pursuit of a career in geology. Seriously, though, it's cliché, but it boils down to doing what you love. I've always loved reading, and in particular reading about passionate people doing interesting, creative, artistic, noble and/or heroic things. Making a living reading about them, helping to improve the stories about them, presenting those stories attractively and occasionally even writing such stories myself -- it's a good deal.

Sharon Ghag, features copy editor and writer:

Newspapers are all I've ever known and all I've ever wanted to do. There's something special about putting out a daily paper and having the community respond the next day. That relationship and interaction between the public and the press is what keeps me going. I love everything about my job, but I especially love the readers who call asking me to resend a lost recipe or telling me how a story I wrote affected their lives. I hope readers know they can continue to count on me and The Modesto Bee to be a part of their lives for a very long time.

Lisa Millegan, arts reporter:

I have loved being a journalist for the last 16 years because I get to meet so many interesting people I would never meet otherwise and have experiences I would have never dreamed of. Because of my career, I've gotten to ride in an Army Reserve helicopter under the Golden Gate Bridge, cover Barry Bonds' divorce trial, observe Muslim prayer services, attend Hmong new year celebrations, interview Bernadette Peters and a whole lot more. Plus, I think we contribute a valuable service -- we tell the community what is going on and we don't have an agenda. Sure, anyone can now post a blog or a Web site, but usually they are only about that particular person's interests. At the newspaper, we report about everything. For example, I don't say I don't like country music so I won't report about country music concerts. We work hard to be as open to as many sources of information as possible.

Bart Ah You, photographer:

Ultimately, I consider us to be the watchdogs over public services, elected officials, corruption, law enforcement, etc. We are the checks and balances for the community. What would happen to our community if we weren't here? We offer an incredible community service to our readers to be "on it" every day. We don't do it for the money. God knows there are plumbers, construction workers, laborers who make more than us. We do it because we care about the people in this city and county. They have the right to know the objective truth. This is our social and moral obligation. There are those who write and those who speak of happenings in the Modesto area. I use a camera. My hope is that my eyes are the viewfinder for all to see, whether good, bad, popular or despised, but always truthful and as objective as possible. What better truth, complete sentence or phrase than a photograph?

Laurie McAdam, graphic artist:

As an artist, my job is to entertain and humor you -- and to make you stop turning the pages because my work has grabbed your attention. It was funny, strange and compelling enough that you had to stop and read the story to find out why ... why was there a whimsical drawing of an old man riding a huge snail complete with steering wheel and turn signals? You had to stop, kind of like when a headline catches your attention. You soon discovered the story was about how senior citizens always seem to be driving so slowly -- and why. My job is done. You were entertained and drawn into a story that one of our reporters worked so hard at writing. I'll be here in The Bee entertaining you, so be sure and look for my byline and know that like many of you I, too, live and work here in Modesto.

Melissa Van Diepen, director of information and news resources:

When I came to The Bee fresh out of college with a history degree, all I knew was that I loved researching and thought that maybe I could make a contribution at a newspaper. I started as an archivist and then took on a research role, spending hours and hours over the past 10 years helping reporters connect the dots in both large and small stories, hook up with sources, and make sense of pages and pages of government statistics. I've helped countless readers find any number of things -- from dates and locations of tee-ball sign-ups, to copies of the paper so a cherished birth announcement could be saved, to a relative's obituary. The archives are the historical record of not only The Bee but of our community. Whether we're telling you when a story ran or asking tough questions of government officials, our role in the community is important. We deliver timely, thought-provoking, funny, powerful and quality-of-life information.

Maria Rocha, news editor:

I love knowing that everything I do as a copy editor makes the paper better for readers, whether it's fixing the spelling of a local name, making a headline more zippy, or combining three wire stories to make a better report on a wildfire or a convention. Every "little" question copy editors ask about whether something is fair or clear or insensitive makes a big difference. Twenty-some years as a copy editor have not dulled how special it is to be one of the last people to see The Bee before it hits the press. These are tough times, but this business remains exciting and important.

Vangie Snuffer, newsroom assistant:

I might not write the compelling stories, but I provide information that people want -- whether it's finding help in "Support Groups," or applauding others in "Very Impressive People," or even if it's just finding something fun to do from the Scene calendar or something to watch in the TV grids. I also make contact with the public. People call here not always knowing why they are calling, or not knowing that they have a story, but I listen and find the hook or lend the sympathetic ear that allows us to touch others. And as technology becomes more of a focus, I help computer-challenged people online. There's great satisfaction in being able to walk a customer through the process that allows them to use today's technology.

Bill Poindexter, sports editor:Having done it for most of my 30 years as a journalist, I can tell you that producing a daily sports section is, simply, fun. That's it: It's fun.

From showing up at the building and looking at that day's section to planning the next one to covering games, editing stories, watching big-time pro and college games unfold, selecting pictures, receiving calls from staffers giving us updates from their sites and from coaches calling in their games and just riding that daily adrenaline rush to the finish line every night. That's what makes us go.

No matter how challenging times may be, it's the love of the game -- our game -- that keeps us enthusiastic about our chosen profession, and keeps us coming back for more. We love it.

Dave Lyghtle, managing editor/print:

I enjoy and appreciate the responsibility entrusted to us by our readers -- in the paper and on our Web site -- to be their primary source for timely, accurate, insightful and comprehensive coverage of local news. I embrace the opportunity to contribute to a product that in so many different ways can inform, entertain and educate readers in the communities in which we serve. And I am inspired always by my co-workers, whose talent, passion, curiosity and intelligence make all those things possible.

...

So there you have it -- why we at The Bee work so hard to give you a daily paper that is interesting, informative and compelling. And why we are so committed to continuing to providing local, relevant, timely and useful news and information, both in print and online.

We've been doing it for you in the past.

We're doing it for you today.

And we'll be doing it for you in the future.

Thanks again for reading The Bee and modbee.com.

Mark S. Vasché, editor and senior vice president, can be reached at 578-2351 or mvasche@modbee.com.

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