Monday, October 26, 2009

The best advice I never took...

We came home from the pumpkin patch last night to discover my former editor, Mike McQueen, had passed away after a short battle with lung cancer. He was just 52.
Mike and I worked together at the Telegraph in Macon and he was a great editor. Mike was very personable and someone you could go to when you had a question or concern. He certainly had a lot of closed door meetings with many of us and I'm sure he calmed a lot of nerves and cooled attitudes because he had that way about him.
I wanted to share a story that I have of Mike and one that has become a defining moment in my life... and every time I think of him I remember this conversation.
I had announced to the editors that I was interviewing in Arkansas for a job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to work a partial cops and courts beat with some time as a computer-assisted reporter.
I can't remember if I had this conversation with Mike before or after my interview in Arkansas, but he was blunt with me when he said he felt like I was making a mistake by taking the job. He told me he had never heard of the ADG and didn't think I would spend much time as a computer-assisted reporter as they promised I would.
Mike thought my best career choice was to stay in Macon and work my way up in Knight Ridder as he thought I had the talent to go places.
Alas, I didn't listen to Mike and it was the best advice I never took. Although he was spot on about the paper, I would never have met and married Pat and had our beautiful children had I not taken that job.
While I was making changes in my life, Mike had some majors changes of his own. He left Macon after Hurricane Katrina to take a job in New Orleans and his son, Michael Jr., was killed in 2006 by his roommate after returning home from Afghanistan.
In 2007, I reached out to Mike after opening up the Washington Post and seeing a story about his son. Mike was on the front page seeking answers to what happened and wanting justice.
During a later email exchange we talked about my life as a wife and mother and how things had changed since our last closed door meeting. But I don't remember if I told him how much I appreciated his honest advice and how right he was.
Mike was a special man... he could be funny and serious in the same five minutes. He was one of the best damn editors I've had... and I know he would take that as a compliment.

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