Here’s Chelsi Moy!

chelsimoyChelsi Moy is a fun and dogged reporter, and she’s a great friend.

It’s actually hard for me to picture working in a newsroom without her because Moy and I have reported side by side for so long.

We got hired around the same time seven or so years ago at the Great Falls Tribune. You’ve heard of the Sip ‘n Dip in Great Falls? The mermaid bar with Piano Pat?

The wall behind this tiki bar is actually the clear side of a swimming pool on the motel rooftop. On some evenings, people dressed in mermaid and sometimes mermen costumes swim around to entertain customers.

Well, Chelsi, who doesn’t really like to swim under water, put on a mermaid outfit and wrote a first person account of what it was like to paddle about in a tank and entertain folks. Her story won an award!

Fast forward a couple years, and we’re both at the Missoulian. We still sit next to each other, so on many mornings, I’ll roll my chair up to her desk and we’ll talk about stories we’re working on. Sometimes, when a nasty lede is bogging me down, I’ll ask Chelsi to straighten it out, and she does.

These days, Moy has been kicking out fantastic work on the University of Montana’s now-on-the-back-burner plan to build a biomass plant.

A couple years ago, she got a really cool FIRST PLACE award from the NATIONAL Awards for Education Reporting sponsored by Education Writers Association. Here’s the story that nabbed her top place in the country. Yay Chelsi!

Awards aside, though, you know how work places have these, um, little quirks? Things that maybe aren’t a huge deal but still make you want to tear out your hair?

Well, I can get pretty wound up about those things sometimes, and occasionally, even hold a teeny, tiny, temporary little grudge.

But it doesn’t last long.

Why? Because I remind myself to take a page from Chelsi’s “good attitude” playbook. She sees all these little quirks, too, but she doesn’t let them make her irritable.

She remains completely and totally optimistic and wonderful as a colleague, and she puts those quirks in proper perspective.

I can say to her: “Grouch, grouch, grouch, grouch, grouch!”

Moy, who has the most generous spirit, says: “Brightness! Light! Cheer!”

That’s her with her headset on in the picture. See what I mean?

— Keila Szpaller

Here’s Cory Walsh!

corywalshYou can count on Cory Walsh, and that’s the truth.

You can count on him for humor, for smarts, and for his news judgment. Cory, who has worked here five years, designs pages, including the beautiful book pages on Sundays.

I’ve had days when my brain is so fried, I’m a little bit afraid the copy I’m handing over includes a foolish mistake.

On those days, I ask Cory if he’s reading my story, and it’s such a relief when he is. His brain is faster than a greased lightning bolt, he catches errors, and he makes reporters, at least one, look smarter.

Cory also has a wicked sense of humor, and sometimes on a controversial story, he’ll mock up a page with a fake headline that makes you laugh so hard your sides hurt. (I just looked to see if I had saved any I could share with you, but I don’t see them in my file of miscellaneous material. That’s probably best.)

The other reason Cory is awesome is he’s patient and calm on … Election Day! A few years ago, before we had all mail city elections and got results earlier, the deadlines were a bit more stressful.

You might be turning in your copy without having read it a couple times. So you’re reading and asking the page designer to make the changes while that person is doing layout.

I remember this one election night when three people, including me, were standing behind Cory, who had A1 on his screen, and we all were asking him for edits.

It’s kind of like Cory is the pilot of a plane that’s about to take off. He’s quite busy. But I’m telling him the coffee on board isn’t to my liking, and someone else is telling him the logo on the tail needs polishing, and another person is pointing out some comma that is out of place.

You get the drift. And even though he has a thousand things going at once, Cory gets the comma in place, and fits in all the other things great and small, and without seeming the least bit ruffled.

It’s amazing. He’s one of those people who is just right when it comes to news judgment, too, and I could go on, but I won’t. He’s a genius, and we’ll leave it at that.

Sometimes, when Cory has really saved my bacon, I’ll buy him a beer. Now, you know who he is, and if you see him out and about at a local brewery, you should feel free to do the same.

— Keila Szpaller

Here’s Anne Cruikshank!

annecYou probably haven’t met Anne Cruikshank, and I’m going to be honest: She’d like to keep it that way. She wasn’t thrilled I had selected her as my next victim.

But Anne, who has worked here five years, does so many amazing things, and so much for MissoulaRedTape.com,  I really couldn’t leave her out. Did you read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”? Do you know Salander? That’s Anne!

She’s a technological genius who wears lots of black and tough shoes. You know that if she ran the world, people would be forced to be more kind to each other and to animals, and to act smarter, too, even if they weren’t.

Here at work, when something goes horribly wrong on this blog, or even just a little bit wrong, I go to Anne and say, this thing on the blog exploded. Or the pictures are fuzzy. Or I need to do this special thing with comments on this one post and WordPress won’t let me.

She goes in this part of the blog that looks mighty different than the tidy part I look at, and she waves her wand, and then Red Tape goes back to normal. She makes it look easy.

Unlike some tech gurus, Anne doesn’t act like the rest of us are, you know, totally unworthy dingdongs. Like when you call tech support and the person says, always with a haughty tone, “Is your computer plugged into the outlet?”

“No. This morning, I decided I’d try plugging it into my ear.” I mean, really.

So when I ask Anne a question, like, why can’t I post this file on Red Tape, she’ll tell me the answer in simple terms that I, a non tech person, can understand. But she doesn’t treat me like a simpleton.

snowflake

At the Missoulian, we have this holiday decorating contest. And even though she does technological wonders, Anne also knows how to use old fashioned scissors. To cut snowflakes!

She’s doing that in the top photo. The bottom picture is one of the more complicated flakes. Pretty, right?

OK. That’s all. Except this: This week, be kind to animals and act smart! If you do, maybe Anne will forgive me for putting her in the spotlight.

— Keila Szpaller

Here’s Rob Chaney!

robchaneyI’m sure you already know Rob Chaney, but I’ll tell you something you don’t know.

Rob Chaney is a great cook. One time, he brought us this onion and egg frittata, and it was delicious. Simple, but yummaroo. I think he’s made us coffee cakes too.

One thing that’s awesome about this newsroom is we’re not really competitive among each other. At least, I don’t think we are. In some places, reporters will hide cell phone numbers from each other, and hoard the best stories.

Here, maybe because of the culture, maybe because we’re too small to get too territorial anymore, people are open about sharing information. My first day here, I was covering the Bitterroot, and a colleague gave me a rock star’s digits in case I needed them. See what I mean?

So, Chaney, who goes by Rob or Chaney around here, used to cover city government. That’s a boon to me because when I have questions about local politics, if this thing or that thing ever happened, or where so-and-so ever went after resigning from the Missoula City Council, Rob remembers.

Very handy.

He’s also good at words. Like, I’ll say, I need a word like “admonished” but maybe shorter and not quite as stern. Rob’s the living thesaurus who knows exactly the right word.

This summer, I got to work with his daughter, Ania Chaney, on the Midway Dispatch, daily stories from the Western Montana Fair. It was fantastic.

Ania, a photographer and writer, fell in love with these chickens at the fair that look like they got a tail feather stuck in an electric socket. That’s her photo right there.

aniachaney

Last I heard, she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and be a journalist. So obviously, Rob isn’t perfect. (Just kidding, Chaney!)  I wonder what her world will look like if she does.

Chaney, who covers natural resources, has worked here since 1997, and it’s a different newsroom and industry in even that stretch of time. We’re a lot smaller, for one. It’s good to have folks like Rob around who have institutional memory.

This “Meet my Colleagues” series is my 2011 holiday celebration on the blog, a teensy break from business as usual. If you missed meeting Betsy Cohen and her beautiful dog, Delphi, find ’em here.

— Keila Szpaller

P.S. For some reason, my pictures are all of a sudden showing up fuzzy on my computer screen. I don’t know why. They aren’t showing up fuzzy on a coworker’s screen, so I hope it’s just equipment on this end. If you’re seeing wobbly images, accept my apologies, and please let me know.

Meet my colleagues!

Last year for the holidays, Red Tape got festive with pet pictures. This year, I’m going to introduce you to my coworkers. Why not?

betsyHere’s Betsy Cohen. She’s first because she sits in front of a sparkling tree. I have a Post-it taped to my desk that says this:

“6/5/07 Give the power back to the people. – Betsy Cohen”

I have a couple things to tackle along those lines for 2012. But here’s the important thing you should know about Betsy, who has worked here since 1996, minus a couple years in Butte.

She just started a blog called “Book Buzz,” and she’s looking to you for all things books: “I need participation from the community on Book Buzz.”

The latest topic on her blog is favorite books of 2011. Mine was “The Imperfectionists,” by Tom Rachman. Hands down. The setting is a crumbling newsroom in Rome, and the author tells its story through characters connected to it, like a quirky copy editor, the comptroller, and a reader who is years behind in reading her newspaper but won’t skip to the present.

Surprisingly, there’s a love story in it, too, but you can’t tell in the beginning.

Back to my coworker, though, who is an editor and reporter here. It’s funny the different things you start relying on different people for.

When I’m sending out a sensitive email, I send it to Betsy first. Bet you didn’t know editors “edit” emails too.  She doesn’t really edit them, but she steers me straight if I’ve struck the wrong tone somewhere.

Most importantly, though, when I feel my nose snarfing up dirt, and I know I’ve lost sight of the big picture, I plop in the chair next to Betsy. She fixes it. I also visit her when I want to hear about her pets, especially Delphi the dog.

delphiSee? Can’t get away from the pet pictures. Anyway, I’ll post more random coworker information between now and January 1, 2012. Fun!

— Keila Szpaller

The Honorable Judge Jenks takes the bench

jenksI don’t really like titles, for the most part, but “judge” is an exception. So yesterday, it was fun to see Kathleen Jenks become the Honorable Judge Kathleen Jenks.

The ceremony was short and sweet. Judge Ed McLean offered some words of wisdom for Jenks, who took pictures with family after the robing.

Want to know more about Judge Jenks? Stay tuned. We’ll have more on her this weekend in the Missoulian.

— Keila Szpaller

Council gets lively for the holidays

Yesterday, a Missoula City Council committee meeting got rowdy, and lots of folks from the Bitterroot and Missoula and elsewhere showed up.

Councilwoman Stacy Rye, chairing the meeting, actually banged her gavel, which I found out later was a computer battery and not a gavel because she probably didn’t think she’d need a gavel.

Someone called the police when a couple folks in the audience got loud. An officer showed up after the ruckus during the discussion about the Hotel Fox and probably wondered what all the fuss was about.

It was about paying $1,200 membership dues to ICLEI, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

The goals and link to the U.N. and “Agenda 21” have some folks up in arms, and Councilman Bob Jaffe gives his take in a report on his listserv. Here’s part of it:

The conspiracy theorists read Agenda 21 to mean that all people will be removed from their energy wasting ranchettes and made to live in dense “Population zones.” Their pickups will be outlawed and everyone will be forced to ride bicycles.  Only non-humans (wildlife) will be permitted to exist outside the dense cities.  All those who support concepts like smart growth are treasonous pawns of the UN plot to eliminate American sovereignty and make us all slaves.

Chapters under section 21 talk about combating poverty and protecting the atmosphere. Those things don’t sound scary, but I haven’t read the thing in depth.

Lost in the conversation, though, was the actual benefit to folks in Missoula of paying that $1,200, and for 15 years so far. (I don’t know if the dues have been the same the whole time, btw.)

Ross Keogh, co-chair of a mayor-appointed greenhouse gas and conservation task force, said the membership gives the city access to a sustainability calculator that’s been helpful. Also, the task force gets help from ICLEI instead of taking up the time of city staff.

But what else? Are the benefits really worth it? I haven’t heard anyone spell all of them out in detail.

Maybe it’s small potatoes in the big picture, some $18,000 altogether if the dues have stayed about the same. But that’s real money, and it’d be awesome to have someone explain what Missoula gets out of it.

In fact, I think someone in City Hall compiled a list. I’ll post it once I get it.

Also, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I sure did.

— Keila Szpaller