Thursday, April 20, 2006

Out on a Limb

I'll miss being a newspaper guy. And I'll also miss having a really good boss who respected my opinions and allowed me full freedom to report the news the way I thought it should be reported.

We respected each other and agreed on most local issues. He was one of the best bosses I have ever had, and I will always appreciate the opportunities he gave me.

But we argued all the time. He is a rock-ribbed Republican and I am a liberal Democrat. Sometimes we yelled for hours about George Bush or Iraq or this or that.

My former boss, Dave Paxton, publisher of the Albia Newspapers, writes a column each week in the Albia Union-Republican. He wrote some very kind words about me in his "Out on a Limb" column last week that I will always cherish.

Here are his comments, excerpted from the paper last week:

WHEN DIEN JUDGE applied for the editor's job here six years ago, without any newspaper experience, without a journalism degree and with a cap firmly planted on his head, I didn't give hiring him a second thought.
And even though we are miles apart politically, socially and generationally, it's been a good, sometimes noisy, sometimes argumentative ride. I'm not sure either of us changed much in our political ways of thinking. I know I was forced to get better at presenting my conservative views.
Being challenged is good, particularly if you tend to surround yourself with people who basically agree with you. Present a view to people who will pat you on the back by simply breathing the same air is one thing. Present that same view to a sceptic, looking at life from an entirely different point of view, is something all together different.
As much as we differ in terms of liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican, we fell into agreement on most local issues. Which backs up the idea that all politics is local. We had dozens of conversations across the hall about the real division in Iowa being urban-rural, not Democrat-Republican.
I think Dien was surprised at how important he became to the Monroe County community as its news editor. I'm hoping his interest in the community will continue, because he has everything it takes to become a local mover and shaker.
As a publisher and avid writer of editorials, the thing I most appreciated about our professional relationship was the balance he brought to more than a few topics. "Read my editorial and see what you think," I'd ask. He may have suggested a word change, or the addition of a single sentence and on occasion he would grimace and I knew I might want to rethink the whole opinion piece.
Sometimes I felt I was on a learning curve in hearing about state politics and his mother's run for governor. It was a rare opportunity for me to peer into Iowa's political machinery. It's why I can bid Dien farewell without a single regret. He has a once in a lifetime opportunity to help affect a statewide gubernatorial race.
I'm not completely sure what direction I'm going to take in filling his position. I doubt very much I'll be able to hire immediately anyone who has the feel for covering local government like Dien developed. I hope people on the city council, the board of supervisors, the hospital board and water board realize how skillfully, honestly and sensitively Dien covered their meetings.
After the election is over I'm hoping Dien and Steva remain as active participants in Monroe County. If they do, they'll make a positive difference. The kind of difference Dien made as editor of the Albia Newspaper.

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