Finch’s skill, kindness
made lasting impression
Jerry Finch probably forgot me, and my name, 30 seconds after I left his office in 1985. But I never forgot him. Indeed, my interview that June afternoon changed my life. I left my know-it-all attitude shrinking on the floor of his office minutes after I misspelled one word on his famous interviewee spelling test. I’d never misspelled a word before. I was a former spelling champion.
All through our back-and-forth Q-and-A session, his kindness, thoroughness, skill as a writer and editor came rushing at me, convincing me that my degree and experience were great but lacked the longevity he was looking for. Most pleasant turndown I ever got.
His advice: Get some more time on a beat and come back to see us. I did, but so enjoyed my work at The Progress-Index in Petersburg that I never looked back.
But one thing I did do: I borrowed his spelling test idea, and one word in particular. When I was promoted to managing editor in Petersburg and, 20 years later, when I became a journalism teacher at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I put that now-infamous word in all my tests. Students in Anchorage got to hear why I enjoyed that word so much. The word: misspelled.
So, Jerry Finch will live on, for me, in everything I write. I am envious of those many reporters he worked with. Those I know also were shaped by his knowledge, compassion, humanity and caring.
Such a good newsman doesn’t come along very often. If you know one, let him or her know while they’re still alive.