At the end of this week, Martinez says goodbye to a hero. Someone who has served the citizens of this town very well for eight years, without much recognition or appreciation. Someone who has sacrificed things in life most of us take for granted, like evenings with friends, in the name of keeping us informed, entertained, and enlightened.
Jenny Croghan has been at the Martinez News Gazette for eight years, and has served as its editor for the past several years. I can tell you from personal experience that her job is impossible. It is mostly thankless. It requires many, many hours a day, and at the end of that day, you get what sleep you can, and then it starts all over again the next day.
If you do it just right - spell everything correctly, get every fact right, make all the pictures come out right, make every deadline – no one says a word. But if you allow a verb or noun out of place, misspell a word or misidentify someone in a photo caption, believe me, you hear about it. Endlessly.
Croghan brought a tenacious, unrelenting spirit to her job, but with her employees and the public, she was gracious and always even-tempered. When I wrote a column for the paper, and my name was somehow misspelled, I wrote a nasty email to her. She wrote back with a sweet apology, with an attitude that made me ashamed of my outburst. People make mistakes, especially me. Why make such a big deal out of such a small thing?
But the big picture she always had right. The paper got out, no matter what. She once was in a car accident on the way to take the layout sheets to the printer. A car veered out of control and hit her car, which was totaled. She was injured in the accident, but she asked the police officer who responded to take her to the printer, which he did. The paper came out the next day, while she was in the hospital being examined for her injuries.
Why does the San Francisco resident care so much about our small town?
“When people ask me to describe Martinez, I say it’s a perfect image of America,” she said. “From Joe DiMaggio to John Muir, to the parades and the small shops, it’s the epitome of what’s right with small towns.”
Croghan made sure that the paper continued to come out, despite the fact that the operation runs on a shoestring, and a fairly austere one at that. She had to make sure that every writer had a working computer, that there was a working printer in the office, that the phones worked and the place didn’t leak.
After eight years, Croghan is moving on to a job in the electronic publishing industry. It’s a bittersweet departure, she said, because she feels the city is poised to make a comeback.
“I’ve always seen so much potential for Martinez,” she said. “Now we’re getting new parks, a new pool, a new library. I feel like with redevelopment off the table, now more than ever there’s a chance for people to come together and make it happen.”
She said she was glad to be able to bring the paper online, something she has wanted to do for a long time.
“I’ve come to appreciate the term ‘grace under pressure’ working alongside Jenny,” said Gazette sales manager Linda Meza. “Whether it was handling the concerns of subjects of a news story, organizing a town hall or coaching writing staff, Jenny’s even tempered and fair minded approach was the one consistency in an ever changing newsroom. Working with Jenny, I’ve personally witnessed her self-sacrifice and dedication. One Saturday morning last year I made my early morning trek to downtown for coffee. As I drove up Escobar at 6:30 a.m. I noticed a solitary car in the Gazette parking lot, lights still on in the office. Jenny was finalizing the weekend graduation issue. It needed to be as perfect as one person working sixteen hours could possibly make it because parents and grandparents would be looking to catch a glimpse of their child’s photo, their name. The Martinez News-Gazette, and I would like to believe her readers, have been enriched by Jenny’s editorial guidance. I know I have.”
So here’s wishing Jenny Croghan the very best of all things in her new endeavor. As a resident of this town, and an avid Gazette reader, I want to thank her for the many, many hours and days (and nights) that she sat at the helm of one of the last small-town papers in America, and made sure we all knew what was going on in our town when we woke up in the morning. It’s a sacred responsibility, and she did it very well.
Thank you, Jenny. You have left a great legacy, and a very high bar for your successor.