Several years ago I walked through the front door of The-BEE office in Phillips. I had no prior professional journalism experience but was apparently teachable enough to cover sports for the paper. Since then, I’ve learned on the job in a trial-and-error environment. It has always been baptism by fire, and there is no way I would still be here without the guidance of a whole lot of people.
Now, nearly a decade later, almost all of those people are gone. They’ve all moved on for various reasons. Some for careers and for others, their families. And as people have peeled off, it has sometimes been difficult to say goodbye, and equally as difficult to imagine how the paper will continue on without them.
Unfortunately, I must do that again.
As most of our readers now know, our wily veteran freelance reporter, Peg Zaemisch, has found a new home in Clintonville and is moving this month. She will leave behind her regular news beats at the county board, the City of Park Falls, and the Chequamegon School District. Plans are firming up for how to keep covering her beats, and though her absence will stretch us even further, it’s the intangible elements Peg provided I will miss the most.
Peg’s background in newspapers goes back decades. She has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist at multiple community newspapers around the state. She has covered just about every type of community event, breaking news story, controversial government decision, political campaign, or crisis you could think of — and a few you couldn’t.
When I was a baby editor, I asked for her sage advice whenever there was a tough decision to make for the paper. Whether it was a rouge letter writer, an obstructionist public official, or a hot-headed board member, Peg always had some advice (or sent me towards someone who might). She usually digs up a story from her working past to share as an example but has always been good about weighing the current situation and its players. Furthermore, she’s never gotten heavy-handed with her advice, instead simply stating what decision she would make and insisting I cut my own path.
Peg also walks around with a vault of experiential knowledge and practical ink-and-paper knowhow that will be missed. My generation grew up with access to the Internet. I have never laid out pages with paper, tape, and glue, and “typesetting” is something the software does for you, not a job title. Yet, here we are in 2019, and column inches, not word count, are still the unit of measurement for print. Her industry knowledge on the actual “paper” has been an area of learning for me for years.
Outside of work I have a few distinct memories I will hold onto. Funny enough, almost all of them include a couple of Wisconsin beers, a rap session about either the paper or dogs (usually both), and moving furniture. Peg has an affinity for charming things, so when you hang out with her it’s kind of like being in a short story. I suppose that’s a good aura for a columnist to emit.
Although she is moving to the Fox Valley area, way down there in the deep south, she has agreed to keep writing her Pegged Right column weekly. I am happy about this. I imagine it will be like getting regular letters from a friend who has moved away.
Take care, friend.