Every day after deadline at The Albuquerque Tribune, Barb Page would start her rounds. We called it Schmooze Patrol. She’d set sail in the back of the room at the copy desk. Wade through the city desk. Drift past the features and sports departments. And moor at the front desk, loaded down with a day’s worth of gossip, anecdotes and newsroom drama. Along the way, she’d also engage in a few hearty arguments about our news strategy and offer writing tips to cub reporters.
Barb died today, and I already miss her. I’m proud to have been one of the stops on her Schmooze Patrols. As a young, arrogant copy editor I learned a hell of a lot from her. And through the years, we never lost touch. Sometimes our communication was a tenuous trickle of postcards. Other times it was random gifts we sent each other. Best of all were the out-of-nowhere phone calls, where I filled her in on my latest life schmooze and received thoughtful advice and encouragement. She always seemed so filled with wonder and amusement at my antics. Her approval buoyed me like the praise of a parent.
Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to her life is the Facebook group that emerged when we found out she was entering hospice. It was a reunion of sorts for the Tribunistas, as we Tribune employees forever refer to ourselves. There’s been a lot of great schmooze on that Facebook group, with all of us catching up with each other and remember Barb’s greatest headlines. She affected a lot of people. And we’re better for it.
The Tribune closed several years ago, another victim of the struggling newspaper industry. But it lives on in everyone who passed through its doors. We were more than co-workers. We were family, united in a cause to commit great journalism. I like to think that as the Tribune lives on in all of our memories, so does Barb. And she’s sitting there at the copy desk, trying to get the hang of whatever new technology the afterlife has dropped in front of her and making some reporter’s prose sparkle.