I assume you’ve seen the previous blog post — “Where’s Maria?” — featuring the picture of Maria Wiering’s desk sans the pile of notes, books and layout sheets that typically decorate her desktop.
The chair is empty because Maria, our very talented reporter and news coordinator, finished her employment with The Catholic Spirit last week. She is getting ready to marry and move to Washington, D.C., where her soon-to-be-husband attends graduate school.
The staff at 244 Dayton Avenue is going to miss her — the news team especially. Maria was a skilled writer, but she also brought an energy and enthusiasm to her work that was infectious. She had a creative eye for page layout, and a friendly personality that made for good PR when she visited people and parishes for stories.
When I first started as editor of The Catholic Spirit in 2005, Maria was still an intern. She was a good reporter, but there was a specific moment when I knew she had what it took to become a great reporter.
Maria was working on a story about then-Sen. Norm Coleman’s decision to support legislation to loosen restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem-cell research. It was a controversial topic and the story drew from a variety of sources. In short, it was a complex story that needed to be handled carefully, fairly and accurately.
As I remember it, we went through several revisions before the story went to press, adding additional information and comments from sources to ensure it would address all the questions readers might have. It was a good story from the first draft, but Maria was open to hearing her editor’s comments and suggestions. The process, she realized, would improve the story — and all the effort would be worth it because, after all, it would carry her byline.
That’s a good lesson for young reporters: Be good at what you do, but be open to working with your editors. Good editors know what readers need and want, and they can help you turn a good story into a great one. Good reporters who are willing to learn become great reporters, like Maria.
We’re going to miss Maria, but thankfully we have a lot of skilled, creative people at The Catholic Spirit who will continue to deliver the best Catholic journalism possible.
And lest this sound more like a eulogy for Maria than a farewell post, rest assured that even though she has left The Catholic Spirit staff, you will likely see her byline popping up every now and then in our print edition and on our website.
But more about that another time.