Jeff Genung allowed me to fulfill a dream.
Before I met him, I had published books. I had married the man of my dreams. I’d even had enough adventures to satisfy Harry Potter and Indiana Jones.
What I had not done, though, was become an intrepid journalist.
My heroes growing up were Brenda Star, Girl Reporter. Lois Lane, Girl Reporter. Clark Kent, Superman and Boy Reporter. Hell. I even envied Jimmy Olsen, and all he did was follow Clark and Lois around with a camera, get kidnapped, and fall off cliffs.
I had not done any of that. Yes. I’d seen my name in print. But not under a headline. Not as a newspaper columnist. Not as a GIRL REPORTER.
In Jeff’s recent column about my books, he described our first meeting: “Shelly practically beat down my door with an idea for a column in her adopted hometown newspaper … I soon came to realize that Shelly isn’t the type of person who takes either ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ as an answer. I’m glad I said yes!”
I am even happier that he said yes, because I’ve had five years to work with this incredible man, watch him hire cub reporters, train them, and see their writing and reporting get better and better under his eagle eye.
The whole process reminded me of Agatha Christie’s elderly sleuth, Miss Marple, taking girls from the orphanage to train as household servants. They arrived, bright-eyed and unskilled. Under her tutelage, they became capable and professional employees. Then, just when they achieved peak performance, they left for … different jobs? More money? To change careers?
It never dawned on me that one dreaded day I would be saying goodbye to the smartest, hardest working, most creative professional of them all.
The boss himself!
The first year that I wrote my column for Jeff, I was rewarded with a delicious clump of Christmas chocolate from The Evening Sun. The following year, the recession hit, newspapers were closing all over the country, and the economy was in ruins.
Well, what happened next was that the world righted itself on its axis (more or less), I went from a weekly column to a monthly column, and life went on.
But, alas, without chocolate.
Jeff has editorialized from time to time about how, regardless of the Herculean efforts he makes to impartially represent all sides, readers still accuse the newspaper of bias. He has also said that if someone isn’t mad at him or his reporters, they aren’t doing their job.
As one with an outlook somewhere to the right of Attila The Hun (I used to laugh when my late husband got bored and would casually suggest, “Let’s invade Canada”), I am of the unequivocal opinion that The Evening Sun does exactly what Jeff claims. It publishes columnists who love the Nanny State, and ones who loathe government control. It presents pro and anti-drilling viewpoints; pro and anti gun control stances; pro and anti this and that. It publishes irate Letters to the Editor from people with steam coming out of their ears, eyes, or pores (an equitable distribution). And for heaven’s sake, it publishes me!
Jeff has said, “Well, frankly, I never know what she’s going to write about.” But that has never stopped him from printing my stories. Sometimes, I even think he likes one or two of them!
Over the half-decade that I’ve been with him, Jeff Genung is, was, and will always be my dream editor. He assures me that the world will not stop turning and that The Evening Sun will maintain its high quality after he has gone. I believe him.
I will miss this wonderful man.
On the very first day that I met him, I asked Jeff to repeat for me the infamous words which Perry White, Clark Kent’s editor-in-chief at the Daily Planet, used to shout at his reporters.
Obligingly, Jeff did exactly that. Now it is my turn to say those words back to him. Here is how the dialogue will go.
Jeff Genung: At the end of this week, I am leaving The Evening Sun.
Shelly Reuben: You’re leaving? Oh, no. You can’t leave. Great Caesar’s Ghost!
Shelly Reuben has been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is an author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.
Copyright © 2013, Shelly Reuben