“Nobody’s irreplaceable,” my Free Press co-owner, Wendy Mimiaga, is fond of saying. Her point is that all of us leave our jobs at some point, and no matter how well we’ve filled our positions, eventually someone else is going to come in and do just fine.
More than 13 years ago, she and I founded this newspaper. We did pretty much everyrthing ourselves, working hard to coordinate our efforts and not get in each other’s way, sort of like those comedy duos who dress up in a two-piece horse suit. But, as I always told Wendy, she wound up with the hind end of the horse. I got to put my byline on stories and make assignments and occasionally win awards, while she did the unlovely grunt work of beating the bushes for advertisers, running out to shoot photos of ribbon-cuttings, cobbling together a computer system that would function for us, fixing it when it didn’t function, making sure we had the software needed to produce a paper, learning Quark and InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, and so on.
Now that is coming to an end. After 13 years of working full-time at another job and spending her lunch hours, evenings and weekends in our little Free Press office, Wendy has decided she’s tired of telling her husband no, she can’t go for a bike ride with him, she has to get the paper out. She’s leaving the Free Press.
Back when the Beatles broke up, John and Paul and George and Ringo said no one besides the four of them would ever understand the experience they had shared. It’s stretching a point to say we’re anything like the Beatles, but in that one regard, we know what they meant. Because no one else has any idea what we’ve experienced scraping this publication together on a shoestring budget. No one else knows how many hours we’ve spent hunched over our keyboards to produce these few pages every month. No one else knows how many times we’ve smiled politely and groaned inwardly when someone said, “How come it’s called the Free Press when it costs 50 cents?” No one else knows how many times we’ve cursed when someone promised us a press release and sent us a link to a web site instead. (“You can get the information off of this — you only have to look at four or five different pages and write an article from that!”)
And nobody else knows how wryly we’ve chuckled when somebody told us, “I went by your office and no one was there — where were all the reporters and staff ?”
It’s difficult to imagine why anyone would give up a posh position like this one, but she’s going to do it. So, fans of the Free Press, if you run into Wendy out sipping lattes or hiking Sand Canyon on the weekends, you might want to tell her thanks for making this paper possible for so many years.
Wendy’s a smart woman in most regards (except spelling, OK? I just have to say that!). But she isn’t right about everything.
Some people are irreplaceable.
— Gail Binkly