From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Editing the Inland Register: a joy, an honor, and a lot of fun

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

(Deacon Eric Meisfjord became editor of the Inland Register on June 1, 1985.)

When I got the news that I was going to be the next editor, back in 1985, it was, frankly, a great feeling. And almost immediately the feeling started sinking in: What are we going to do next? There were all those blank layout sheets staring up at me. And it was up to me to figure out how to fill them up. And make sense. And look decent. And not embarrass the rest of the staff. And do it within budget, please.

You grow up, and reflect on your childhood, and wonder at some of the things you did that nobody killed you for, especially your parents. And you think of the people who looked at you, and realized you were floundering, and didn’t lecture or preach or castigate or sneer, but instead offered a hand, and some advice, and smiled, and said, “It’s going to be okay.” And, generally, it was.

I’ve often said, continue to say, will continue to say, that this office is a lot of fun. The news continues to fascinate me. The people of the Church in Eastern Washington continue to amaze and delight me. It’s a joy to report on the good work people do, to share those stories.

The diversity of the work is a joy as well. Television did not ruin my attention span; my job did. There’s always something different to do; there’s no reason to ever, ever be bored. (Though sometimes that attention span thing gets in the way.) (Now, where was I...?) The newspaper, radio, web site, software to learn, research to do –there’s always something just around the corner, and we can’t wait to get there.

Some of what we do is information; some of it, formation – letting people know what’s going on; helping people be better Catholics. It’s a curious mix, a fine line, and walking the line is a terrific challenge that makes getting out of bed in the morning a joy and a pleasure.

We take pride in helping the Church tell its story, with its own context, its own understanding. Not to spin news, not to whitewash, but to talk, and explore, and share, and explain – Catholics talking to Catholics about Catholicism. That was true in 1942, and 1952, and 2002, and all the years in between.

We get to learn, and explore, and write, and then do it all again. And we get to do it in service to the Church, assisting the bishop in his ministry of communication.

I take great comfort in the belief that Church happens in spite of us. That God works, despite our shortcomings, despite our giftedness. God works; Church works. The Inland Register tries to help that process along.

We still have the 35mm camera we used when I first came on board. We’ve added a digital camera. We use PCs instead of bulky input stations that wouldn’t so much as run a spell check. (And if you wanted to move a paragraph in those days, you re-typed the paragraph where you wanted it to go.) Now we have scanners, too, for photos and text.

When I started, most of the work was done standing up, at long paste-up tables lit from beneath by neon tubes, working furniture designed and built by Father Savelesky. We still have (and use) those tables, but by and large most of the work is done digitally, on our computers.

Not many folks seem to remember the more obvious mistakes, and I’m grateful. Every once in a while, someone will come up and compliment us on something we did, and I’m grateful for that, too.

I have a wonderful staff who work with me to produce the Inland Register. We’re proud of the work we do; but some issues shine. And they shine because of the staff here: Nancy Loberg, who handles advertising and promotions; Bonita Lawhead, who’s the reporter, typesetter, and bookkeeper; and Rosemary O’Donnell, our part-time clerk. Someone who can sell a Catholic newspaper, and someone who can write a Catholic newspaper, they’re nearly irreplaceable. And Rosemary keeps us all honest, which is a gift in itself.

And we all get to do what we do for the Church. It really is an honor, along with its great responsibility. And a great deal of fun.

I have a number of other people to be grateful for, over all these years, and I hate to start with one person lest anyone be offended. And hate to mention names, lest anyone be left out. Still:

Bishop Skylstad makes the Inland Register happen. In all his years as bishop of the Spokane Diocese he has never missed a deadline, never failed to write a column. He consistently encourages us, congratulates us, spurs us on.

My wife listens to me complain and rejoice (sometimes in the same sentence) and smiles and sends me on my way.

The pastors who talk about our work, mentioning to their communities what’s available in the Inland Register. Talking about us, using us, helping us get the word out.

Helen Rice and Margaret Nevers both had years of experience under their belts when I came on board, green as grass. And they didn’t throw up their hands in despair. They were patient and, more importantly, honest.

Sister Bernadette Botch of the Sisters of Providence was in charge of diocesan business affairs for years and years. She had a number of unique gifts. One was one of the heartiest laughs I’ve ever heard in my life. It was pure energy, starting deep in her chest as a chuckle and roaring into a guffaw. And it was a guffaw that put everything into perspective – that all would indeed be well, despite the bleakness of the latest prophecies. We all miss her every day.

Father Mike Savelesky was my immediate predecessor in the job. We’ve known each other in one role or another for over 25 years, and he’s still speaking to me and writing his very fine column on spirituality for each issue.

I stand in awe of the first editors of the Inland Register: Father Terence Tully, who was the first and third editor, and Msgr. John Donnelly, who was the second and four editor. I never really understood the phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” until I came into this job and recognized the kind of work that had gone before me. They, too, have been remarkably patient, candid, and supportive.

Msgr. Donnelly wasn’t able to contribute to this edition – though officially retired, I suspect he is just as busy as he ever was – but when the IR celebrated its 50th anniversary he wrote a very fine essay:

“Friends often ask me if I miss the field of journalism,” he wrote in 1992. “My standard answer is ‘No. I relate to people in parishes better than I relate to typewriters.’

“That is not really the whole truth. My 17 years in journalism were filled with excitement and challenges that still today leave me breathless when I reminisce. They were also filled with long days and weekends of stress, drudgery and frustration. All of these things, however, can also be said of parish ministry....

“One thing I know now which I did not know in the seminary, and that is that the work of the ministerial priesthood knows no pat definition, and that God has been able to use my limited talents for his purposes in wildly creative ways, whether I was operating as a ‘hyphenated’ priest-journalist or in the more traditional ministerial role of pastor. A sense of wonder and of gratitude pervade both of these ministries for me, and for the opportunities both have afforded to work with such wonderful, dedicated people as I have been able to count my collaborators and friends.”

And I thank our readers. The people who keep us on the coffee table, pick up an issue, leaf through, find something interesting, informative, helpful, even restful. Who share their enthusiasm with others. Whether they call or not, congratulate us or not, complain or not, agree or not. That they read the Inland Register, and continue to read it. Thank you.

This event, this anniversary, is an opportunity to reflect, but also an opportunity to express the kind of joy and gratitude we all feel for the opportunity to this work every day.

Another 60 years? We’re ready if you are.

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