Passion for job drives new hires

And they’d be right. Those are essential characteristics for someone who wants to be a successful reporter, photographer or editor, whether it be for newspapers, broadcast or the Internet.

But there’s another distinguishing trait that many journalists share. It’s called passion, and that’s something hard to define but easy to recognize. It’s a key element every editor looks for when making hiring and promotion decisions.

Passion not only for journalism but for excellence in journalism played a major role in the selection of two people for key newsroom positions, news editor and chief copy editor, this past week.

The news editor supervises the new desk, which is made up of the copy editors, headline writers and page designers who put the paper together each day.

Newly named to the post is Mark Carlson, who had been the assistant news editor. He replaces Sally Birks, who after many years of working on the high-pressure, fast-paced news desk, is taking her talents to the Features section.

In his application for the job, Mark described himself as an "innovator, a problem-solver and a go-along-get-along guy except when good journalism is threatened."

Then he added, "I’m passionate about the news business and hope to pass on some of that passion. …"

Not a bad start, but another comment really resonated with me and others. In outlining his goals for the job, Mark said, "I want us to think like readers." He added that everything from the biggest story to the smallest news brief should pass the "Why should I care? test" with readers.

Mark is strongly grounded in grass-roots journalism. He was chief copy editor at the Whidbey News-Times in Oak Harbor and editor of the Anacortes American before coming to The Herald in 1996.

His own roots are local, too. He grew up in Marysville and graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 1978.

The chief copy editor is the news desk’s primary "word person" and quality control checkpoint. That role will be filled by Jim Kjeldsen (pronounced (kehl-sun), who has spent much of his career writing headlines and editing stories for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

He also has a book to his credit, "The Mountaineers — A History." The book about the Seattle outdoor club was published in 1998.

Jim comes to us with a reputation for having excellent language skills, broad knowledge of newspaper style and a knack for writing clever headlines. Those abilities showed themselves when Jim analyzed an edition of the Sunday paper as part of his job application.

After complimenting The Herald as "an excellent newspaper, with a great look and feel," Jim compiled a three-page list of 49 things we could have done better.

Mark and Jim share a passion for the business and care a lot about getting things right for readers. I’m convinced that working together they will make The Herald a better paper — and that you’ll notice the difference.

  • Things that seem simple never are.

    We’ve been struggling for weeks to find a way to answer reader complaints regarding the loss of currency exchange rates in the Economy section and the changing location of one of our two crossword puzzles.

    The problem is that adding or moving even one element within the newspaper sets off a chain reaction of consequences that usually make the situation worse.

    Now we think we’ve got both problems licked. The currency exchange rates will appear on the main Economy page Tuesday through Saturday. The once-itinerant crossword puzzle will be placed near the Time Out section, where the comics are, Monday through Saturday.

    Mike Benbow, the Economy editor worked out the details on the currency rates and Suzanne Ames, public journalism editor, led the effort to get the crossword settled in to a predictable location.

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