3 aces


A little more than 20 years ago, I recruited Maisha Maurant to come west for a summer internship at The Oregonian. She’s now about the same age I was then and paying it forward as a health care communications manager in Michigan.

The American Copy Editors Society held its annual convention in Portland last week and that gave me the chance to reconnect with three great friends and former colleagues.

I think of them as three aces — not just because doing so reflects the organization’s acronym but because each is a person who excels at what he or she does, including life itself.

The ACES convention drew about 700 people, I’m told, during its Wednesday-to-Saturday run at a downtown hotel. There was a time when I, as a recruiter representing The Oregonian, would have attended a gathering like this to meet prospects and glean useful tips from selected workshops and general sessions.

But that was another time. Instead, I met a former intern for happy hour Thursday and joined two longtime pros for coffee Friday. Connecting with all three was wonderful. Each embodies the best qualities of those who are attracted to journalism, and I was reminded of how lucky I am to count them among my friends.


The 20th annual American Copy Editors Society convention in Portland gave me a chance to reconnect with Ron Smith (left) and Rich Holden.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce:

Maisha Maurant (Ace of Hearts): I met Maisha at the Spirit of Diversity job fair in Detroit in the fall of 1994, soon after I became The Oregonian’s first-ever full-time newsroom recruiter.

She was a senior at Wayne State University and impressed me with her enthusiastic personality and potential for growth. She became a 1995 newsroom intern and the first recipient of the Gail P. Westry Internship, a memorial internship created to honor the legacy of a beloved colleague who had died of cancer at age 40.

Read a moving tribute to Gail in this piece by Seth Prince, another former intern at The Oregonian who left Portland recently to become student media adviser at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.

Gail Westry: The essential mentor I never met

Maisha had never been anywhere near Oregon before that summer. In fact, she told me over drinks, she had only a fuzzy notion of where it was before that summer. But that didn’t dissuade her from embracing the opportunity to enhance her reporting skills and grow as a person in acclimating to a city and newsroom far different from what she had known.

After college, Maisha worked for a time as a newspaper reporter in Florida and a nonprofit in Virginia before returning to her native Michigan, where she transitioned to corporate communications in the health care industry.

maisha maurant

Maisha Maurant, a Wayne State University graduate who became a 1995 summer intern at The Oregonian.

She’s now manager of the Communication and Creative Services team and chief corporate editor at Health Alliance Plan of Michigan, and was one of four speakers on a Women in Management panel at ACES last week.

It’s so satisfying to see the growth in someone I met when she was just 21. She’s become a leader in her field, with a commitment to training and development of her staff, and still has the same radiant smile.

The day after our reunion, she wrote: “I sincerely appreciate you opening a pathway for me to experience something wonderful all those years ago.”

It was my honor and privilege to do so for Maisha and so many others. It’s great to see her paying it forward.

Rich Holden (Ace of Diamonds): As I attended more job fairs and journalism conventions, it was inevitable that I would cross paths with Rich.

A former copy editor and manager at The Wall Street Journal and Asian Wall Street Journal, Rich became executive director of the Dow Jones News Fund in 1992, leading a nonprofit organization founded by Journal editors to encourage college and high school students with an interest in journalism.

In that role, he and his staff gave a boost to thousands of young people through summer copy-editing internships at many of the country’s leading news organizations. He also came up with training programs for journalism faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and at colleges with significant Latino undergraduate enrollment — an initiative meant to help instructors who typically lack the resources and industry connections of those at more affluent institutions.

rich holden

Rich Holden is a master of the pun and a champion of diversity.

Rich retired in 2014 to his home in New Jersey but remains active in ACES and as a leading champion of diversity within the industry.

I owe him a special debt of gratitude for having extended to me an opportunity to serve as Journalist in Residence for a week at DePauw University in west-central Indiana. In his Dow Jones News Fund role, Rich was in a position to select a media professional each semester to work with DePauw students, tapping a fund honoring Barney Kilgore, a 1929 DePauw alum who went on to become a top news executive of the Wall Street Journal and president of Dow Jones & Co.

Rich is a class act as a human being and media professional. He’s known to all for his sonorous baritone — a voice that immediately caught the attention of the waitress who brought us coffee and prompted Ron Smith to joke, “He’s got a face made for radio.”

Ron Smith (Ace of Spades): Though I think of Ron as the highest card in a deck of playing cards, I also think of him as The Joker. Anyone who’s met Ron would agree.

It was only fitting that he would lead a discussion last week titled “Maintaining Standards (and Humor) in Chaos.”

A founding member of ACES, Ron worked at the Los Angeles Times and  Newsday in New York before coming to The Oregonian. He worked in Portland for several years, making friends and winning respect across the newsroom, as someone who could make everyone around him feel better while also making the newspaper better.

ron smith

People of all backgrounds gravitate to Ron Smith because he literally embraces them as well as life itself.

When he left us in 2003 to return to the Midwest, both to be near family and accept a senior management job, we all wished him the best. He’s now a deputy managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel overseeing daily news and production, a role that has him scrambling to keep the trains running on time in an era of diminished resources and a shrinking staff.

With a can-do attitude and a clear sense of priorities (readers first, newsroom egos second), I am sure Ron is just as much an asset in Milwaukee as he was in Portland. At the same time, his sense of humor and pride are very much intact as you can tell from three recent social media posts:

“My cousin is MUCH better than yours!”

A photo of a sweatshirt declaring, “I graduated from Marquette University. To save time, let’s assume I’m always right.”

A photo of a whiteboard urging colleagues to “Always give 100% at work.”

ron smith - whiteboard

Newsroom leadership a la Ron Smith.

Portland’s loss was Milwaukee’s gain. But during his time here, Ron made enduring friendships that added to his fan base across the United States.

Three fine people. Three aces in my book.



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