Teri’s Notebook: Party to say goodbye to Barry Smith
If I ever have a question about writing — whether it be grammar, style, usage or just plain finesse — I always know who to go to: Barry Smith.
Barry was my first editor at the Nevada Appeal, when I started there in late 1999. In fact, he hired me.
I’d like to say, he was my mentor right away and that we formed a fast friendship. But it didn’t quite work that way.
Barry is sharp, like the kind of smart that’s intimidating. On top of that, he is deeply principled, always aiming to do the right thing for the right reasons. For the first years I worked with him, I couldn’t get in an argument with him without crying.
It mustered all my strength and courage to disagree with him (which is completely out of the my naturally argumentative character). When I would start to cry, he’d soften his tone, suggest we go into his office…. But my pride insisted that I maintain eye contact, albeit teary, and insist, between sobs, that he ignore my crying and continue as normal.
Poor Barry, what a weird experience that must have been for him.
As I gained confidence in myself and in my work, I stopped crying when I talked to him, but I never stopped valuing his advice.
Even after he left the newspaper to take over as director of the Nevada Press Association in 2006, I would still ask him to edit my stories or go to him for counsel or ideas. I still do.
And I’m not the only one. I spoke to former Appeal reporter Amanda Hammon, who covered the city beat.
She remembered one time she was the only one in the office and was sent to cover a pretrial murder hearing, a story that was out of her normal purview.
“I came back to the office and I told Barry what happened, and he was really excited for the story,” Amanda said. “I then wrote the story and filed it. He came out his door a few minutes later wearing his frustrated look.
“He said, ‘Amanda tell me what happened again.’ So I told him what happened. He gave me what was really one of my best working lessons I had ever had, and it was such a simple one.
“He said, ‘Amanda, whatever you’re going to go back and tell somebody, that’s the actual news. That is your lede.’
“As simple and seemingly self-explanatory as that lesson was, it was one of the best I ever had. That simple lesson that guided me as a writer for the future and every time I’ve worked with interns or students since then, I’ve always gone back to that simple point — what would you tell someone?
“Barry was simply the best boss I ever had without question. I loved that he let us do our thing without getting in our way too much. He encouraged us. He put us in our place when we needed it but for the most part he provided a space for us to all grow and do good work.”
Guy Clifton, a longtime Nevada journalist and public information officer for the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, has seen Barry’s commitment to journalism as the director of the Nevada Press Association.
“I’ve seen him testify on a number of occasions to legislative committees on issues of concern to the press,” Guy said. “He was always calm regardless of the situation and always had done his homework. He always put the First Amendment first.”
Sadly, that era has come to a close as Barry retired this month. While I’m sure he will remain involved in the community, it is only fitting we wish him well in his new chapter.
A party in his honor will be 5 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Nevada Press Association, which is housed in the Rinckel Mansion, 102 N. Curry St.
Barry will long be remembered for his commitment to journalism, but even more so for sharing his wisdom with those of us who were lucky enough to work with him.
He taught us to be deliberate and precise with our words, exact in our ethics and, most of all, he taught us that we mattered.