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Tribune newsroom full of characters

Published November 24, 2012 4:23 pm

A view from here • Newsrooms attract independent — and perhaps idiosyncratic — people who care about their community.
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"The unexamined life is not worth living," said Socrates. Many of us surely agree with that. Understanding seems fundamental to a meaningful life — although we can overthink and overanalyze as well. Then we risk taking ourselves and everything else too seriously.

At any rate, it is an extension (or maybe a contraction) of that idea that led to the creation of this column, "A View from Here." Trib editors wanted to give readers a peek at life inside the newsroom, help readers know us better and understand how we make decisions. Ours is a very public occupation — part and parcel of a functioning democracy, so we aim to be as transparent as possible.

The Salt Lake Tribune newsroom has its share of interesting characters. The most public, best known, might be Robert Kirby and Pat Bagley. Oh, and Paul Rolly, of course.

Kirby is a former cop and as funny in person as he is in his columns. Talking to him is always an adventure. You can never be sure what you will hear next. Behind that comedic, self-deprecating front, though, is a very sensitive, kind and considerate man who is, also, a fine journalist. His continuing coverage of the challenges faced by a survivor of the Trolley Square shooting was particularly memorable.

Pat Bagley, our award-winning cartoonist, is renowned for his sharp, sometimes biting wit and astute observations. He is a fine writer — witness his history columns — and a soft-spoken, congenial colleague. Now he is a journalist with a brand — he's become his own institution.

Our news columnist Paul Rolly calls himself "surly," but I wouldn't say that about him. He is one of the best-sourced journalists in the state, having earned the trust and appreciation of those who inform him. He has broken his share of big stories, and his quiet, steady, shuffling, hands-in-his-pockets presence is a mainstay in the newsroom. He is a walking book of knowledge about state politics and a font of institutional knowledge that we often tap when we need to write the obituary of a prominent Utahn.

There are an equal number of behind-the-scenes characters — Ana Daraban comes to mind. A part of The Salt Lake Tribune for the past 35 years, she knows where all the bones are buried and everything else at the Trib. She is the always interruptible, ever willing, go-to person. She has been the librarian, archivist, photo-finder — and now has earned the title of Tribune Data Princess as she takes on responsibility for building our calendars and other databases.

And then there is Kathy Stephenson, everyone's favorite person. The-glass-is-half-full gal with sunbeams on her shoulder and smiles all around. She is our food writer and editor and a great cook. You couldn't find a more pleasant person. And no phony-baloney — she is for real — smart, hard working and completely reliable.

Michael Nakoryakov, our Russian-in-residence, speaks better English than I do and can copy-edit circles around me, too. He heads up our print team — a serious, careful, traditional journalist who nevertheless can take a joke, dish one out and has learned to roll with the punches in this new digital world in which we now publish. And he can teach you to swear in Russian — although he is too proper to swear himself.

These are just a sampling of the people who make The Tribune unique and indispensable. We have about 120 more real characters on staff.

Newsrooms generally attract independent people who care about other people and the community. Some say newsrooms also attract idiosyncratic people. I am not sure. I do know that because of the public intensity of reporting and some readers' tendency to want to kill the messenger, journalists have to develop a thick skin, a sense of purpose and a sense of humor to survive in the business. It makes for an interesting, rewarding and fun workplace. And I am glad I get to work here, that's for sure.

Nancy Conway is the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune. Reach her at nconway@sltrib.com.






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