As anyone from The Tennessean will tell you, Anne Paine is a tough nut to crack.
When I started at the Nashville daily newspaper last year, Paine was the dean of the newsroom. The environmental reporter had been at 1100 Broadway for decades and had seen more than her share of her reporters and interns.
Little did I know I had an ace up my sleeve.
When I told her my adviser said ‘Hi,” her head popped up from her corner faster than I had seen yet.
“You know Linda Quigley?” she said with a little surprise.
While she was shocked I knew her, I was just as surprised of her reaction. Because Quigley – and trust me, her last name is the preferred reference – hadn’t worked at The Tennessean for more than a decade.
But Quigley was no ordinary journalist, which will make her even harder to replace when she leaves the Department of Media Studies at the end of the month.
You know, scratch that. She’s irreplaceable. And anyone who’s worked with her or read her stories knows exactly why.
Just look at how she started some of her feature stories (which took just 30 minutes to find in The Tennessean digital archives):
Take a trend story she wrote about, seriously, the downturn in the use of cleaning supplies:
“If the last three loads of laundry haven’t been folded, there’s soap scum in the shower and you can write your name in the dust on the bookshelves, let go of the guilt. You’re trendy.”
Or an article about a writer of those sleazy paperback romance novels:
“Sherrilyn Kenyon makes no apologies for writing historical romances, thick paperback novels with cover art of men wearing leather britches and not much else except a film of sweat glistening on well-muscled torsoes.”
Or my personal favorite intro from a piece about home improvement:
“If Hamlet had been a homeowner, his soliloquy would have addressed another eternal dilemma: To do it yourself, or not to do it yourself, that is the question; / Whether ’tis more efficient in the home to hire a pro / To sort out the whatchamacallits of complex projects, / Or to grab the gizmo with your own hand, / And force the whatsit into the thingamajig?
When Quigley’s stories are reread, they are like hearing a lead guitarist riff at the beginning of a solo. They have just the perfect balance of snark and substance. Her distinct rhythm would find a place in nearly every piece of her content which ever went to press.
Her voice grew only stronger when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was willing to chronicle it for her employer’s 300,000 readers to witness. She later co-wrote a book about healing which included those same experiences with incomparable perspective and tone. As always, her work was witty, literate, thoughtful and moving. She wouldn’t have done it another way.
Quigley brought her perspective and expertise to Belmont in 2000 where she advised the Belmont Vision and began to teach on campus. In the four years I’ve known her, she’s been a constant force of good for this department. Her leadership always had the glimpse of the future and the pulse of the past necessary for this student news organization to succeed with its rotating cast of leaders and staff.
As a one-on-one editor and mentor, she shined as one you could always bring your work to for a fair, thorough and thoughtful take. Her years as editor and reporter gave her the dual skills needed to identify with reporters and give us the advice we desperately needed. Because of Quigley and the time she invested, quite a few hacks turned into pretty good writers after she was through with us.
And with this point in particular, I know I should probably find a stopping point. I know Quigley isn’t one for the obituaries she sometimes assigned her Basic Newswriting students, especially since she won’t stop writing or teaching anytime soon. With that in mind, the only thing I can say to her is this – thank you.
Thank you for all you’ve taught me as a journalist and storyteller. Thank you for being a backstop for the Vision and its editors while we were trying to balance life, class and career. Thank you for the late nights you spent grading and editing and reading our work. And thank you for being a class act and an example of patience, courage and determination anyone would be a fool not to follow.
I’m so grateful I did.
Vision editor Brian Wilson is a graduating senior journalism major.