Farewell, Jack

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Memories of former Daily News production manager

I really need to read the death notices in The Telegram more often. More than a week ago, on a Saturday, I finally saw the announcement that Jack Krieger had passed away about three hours after the funeral service.

I missed his wake. And I definitely would have been there, had I known.

Jack Krieger's death wasn't noted in the local media, outside of page six in The Telegram, because he didn't work as a journalist. He didn't have a public face, voice or byline. However, Jack was an active participant in the print media scene for perhaps 40 years.

Jack worked in production, back when newspapers were put together with the paste-up' process. As Production Manager at the now-defunct Daily News, Jack hired me in 1974 as a paste-up artist. It was my first real "media" job, though I was intent on being a graphic designer at the time I had no inkling that writing was my destiny.

Newspapers back then looked roughly similar if a little more primitive in design to those of today, but the production or layout process was completely different. Long, closely-trimmed vertical strips of paper called copy' were waxed on the back, sliced into pieces and pasted onto a flat', as per the editor's hand-drawn diagram or dummy'. The flats were pre-printed with light blue columns, which didn't photograph when the pages were shot, but gave us guidelines for copy and ad placement. It was highly tactile, requiring a good eye for visual balance and some dexterity with an Xacto knife.

In spite of the ungodly hours, it was a fun place to work, due mainly to the disparate crew who surrounded me. There was Ron Ayles, the bayman from Bonavista', Barry Squires, a long-haired hippie' like myself, and Jack, our boss. Others came and went, but we were the core of the paste-up crew.

The Daily News was a morning paper, so we worked rotating shifts 9 to 5 one week, 7 pm to 2 am the next. On the day shift, we composed' advertising and most of the back section, while on nights we put together the live news pages.

Under Krieger's patient direction, I learned the nuts and bolts of newspaper production and design. This was the first job that really mattered to me, and it didn't take long for me to fuse my natural, if unrefined, illustration skills with the mechanics of newspaper layout and design. I recall that Jack was fairly impressed with how quickly I learned, and the quality of my page assembly (not to mention the doodles I left on the art table backboards).

What I remember most about Jack is his even temper. It took a lot to piss him off. And even then, it was never a toxic, sully-your-pants kind of anger. I learned more from Jack about "human relations" than I have from anybody since. I looked up to him, and soaked up as much technical knowledge as I could, before leaving after less than a year to try to make it as a graphic designer in Toronto (but that's a story for another day).

My learning didn't end with the paste-up department. Our space was adjacent to the editorial department, separated by an open portal, so we could hear every word spoken in that room. And, believe me, I listened carefully (when we weren't putting the place up on our side, that is).

I could hear the constant banter between the reporters and editors, including Bob Woolridge, Suzanne Clark (now Woolridge), Dee Murphy, Marge Keough, Gordon French, John Browne, and others.

What really caught my ear were the briefings that publisher Bill Callahan would give the reporters, before they wrote an editorial or in-depth news piece. My awareness of public affairs may have been limited at the time, but it sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about. An hour later, while putting the page together, I would devour the story or editorial, pondering how Callahan's insight had filtered through in the reporter's writing.

I was being influenced as a journalist, before knowing I'd even be a journalist.

"I was sorry to read the news on Jack," Bill Callahan said to me last week, in an interview. "He was a very nice guy and not, I think, your typical union rep (Jack was shop steward at one point). He was a hard and careful worker. I always found him friendly, cooperative and a nice person to work with. And I was very sad to hear of his death. I hadn't seen or heard of Jack in, what, 20 years"

I, too, last track of Jack when I left The News in 1975. Much later, he went to work in the production department at The Newfoundland Herald, sometime after I had finished working at that publication.

I ran into Jack one day in the mid-90s, whilst visiting The Herald on business, and he asked if I remembered "the good old days" at The Daily News. He remarked that I had "done well" for myself in the intervening years.

Not only did I remember those days, I told him, they were some of the most influential and memorable of my career. I told him that my experience at The Daily News laid the foundation for all that came afterward.

We were surrounded by people, so I couldn't get too sentimental, but I think Jack got my drift. I was telling him how much I had appreciated his mentorship and guidance in those early days.

I regret not saying it like that, but am thankful for what I did say.

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  • Helen
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Hi Geoff,
    I also worked with Jack for ten years. I worked at OZ FM when he was at the Herald. He always had a smile and a joke to tell me. I didn't know he passed away. I would have been at the funeral. I'll miss Jack. He was one of the good guys.