managing editor

Richard Allen Finnell, left, a long-time adviser for The Daily Texan, died Saturday at the age of 70. He worked closely with Jennie Kennedy during her three-semester tenure as managing editor from 2000–2001. 

Richard Allen Finnell, journalist and long-time print adviser for The Daily Texan, died Saturday at the age of 70.

Finnell, a UT alumnus, was a mainstay of support for Texan staffers over the course of his 17-year tenure as adviser, according to former managing editor Jennie Kennedy.

“When I told Richard I wanted to be managing editor, I was dumb, and 20, and had all these beautiful ideas — and he supported me in every direction I wanted to go,” Kennedy said. “The thing I loved about Richard is that no matter what we wanted to do, he had our backs.”

Finnell worked long hours, reading each article before publication until his retirement in 2009. Erin Inks, who served as managing editor in 2004, said the staff appreciated his dedication — especially when technical delays meant the workday extended long past deadline.

“When I was managing editor, we had some difficulty implementing new software, so we were having tons of technical issues,” Inks said. “He was always the only adult there, sitting with us [and] finishing the paper. We were there so late, and he didn’t have to do it, but he stayed there with us. He was there to help.”

Finnell had an extensive background in journalism. Before working at the Texan, he served as the editor and manager of Hill Country News from 1983–1993 and as the managing editor of Taylor Daily Press for four years. Despite his experience, he let Texan staffers make their own mistakes, Inks said.

“For someone who had as much experience and knowledge as he did, I’m sure at times it was hard to pull back and let us be a truly student-led newspaper,” Inks said. “But that’s what he did. He was there for us to give advice, to circle something in red [and] to tell us what was really bad — but he was never overbearing.”

Finnell was known for his honesty, Kennedy said.

“Richard pulled no punches,” Kennedy said. “When he thought something was crappy, he told us. When he thought something was good, he told us.”

Kennedy, who was managing editor for three semesters, said she couldn’t imagine a better adviser. 

“There was nobody better in the world to support a bunch of college kids trying to write a paper,” Kennedy said. “At the end of the day, he taught us to use our good judgement. He taught us that no one was the boss of us.”

And Finnell, known for stroking his carefully cultivated mustache — and occasionally leaving the office basement to help his son run a fireworks stand — was funny, too.

“There’s just something about having an adviser that will look at your stuff at midnight and still crack up about it,” Kennedy said. “I advise everyone to get one of those.”

Finnell is survived by his sister, Carmen Shinn, and his son, Cory Finnell.

The Texas Associated Press Managing Editors named The Daily Texan “College Paper of the Year” for the third year in a row this past weekend.

Aleksander Chan, former managing editor of The Daily Texan and recent UT journalism alumnus, attributed the Texan’s success partially to the enterprise department. The enterprise department — led by Audrey White, another former managing editor and a Plan II Honors senior — wrote in-depth and investigative stories much longer than the average report.

“It set us apart from the other Texas college newspapers,” Chan said. “We devoted the energy, time and resources into some in-depth reporting that is really hard to do in a daily college newspaper.”

This included in-depth reporting on Fisher v. Texas, a Supreme Court case that will decide whether UT’s admission policy can continue taking race into consideration. The Daily Texan sent journalism and sociology junior Andrew Messamore to Washington to cover the oral arguments.

Chan also attributed the Texan’s success to an improved digital presence. While managing editor, Chan restructured the Texan’s web department and created the digital director position, which has been filled by public relations sophomore Hayley Fick.

“[Fick] was able to work a position whose primary goal was to make the website experience as great as the daily print experience, if not better,” Chan said. “It’s important to have that kind of position going forward as the Texan tries to move to a more digital-first mentality.”

Gotta serve somebody

Take a look at Julie Rene Tran's story about Washington Post food editor and former Daily Texan managing editor Joe Yonan's new cookbook "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One" ($22, Ten Speed Press). It has a strong UT angle, delivers insights for one of the Texan's core audience (single people) and offers a solid multimedia package on our much- improved website. This is the kind of work we want to be doing at the Texan these days. Now, I must admit that Joe and I worked together back in the day at The Boston Globe, but that takes nothing away from the relevance and quality of the work by both Joe and Julie. And the recipes are darned good, too! 

-30- column

Veronica Rosalez began working for The Daily Texan in fall 2009 as a copy editor and page designer. Since then, she has worked as the design editor and the managing editor.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note — A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in the Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.

I remember sitting on the Forty Acres bus when I checked my voicemail and heard back from The Daily Texan saying I was hired. I was so excited I missed my stop. I called my dad immediately.

“If I know you at all, you’ll run that place one day,” he said.

It was fall 2009 when I first walked down the steps to this basement as a page designer and copy editor. In the beginning of my Texan career, I couldn’t wait to get to work. One semester later, I couldn’t wait to leave. But I never did.

The reasons for leaving always outweighed those for staying; better grades, a well-rounded social life or even just much-needed sleep. But I felt like I had an obligation to make the Texan the best it could possibly be. More than that, it’s the people I’ve worked with here who made everything worthwhile.

In the time I’ve spent at the Texan, I’ve come to admire my colleagues. It’s not just that they’re talented, but also because they are so damn dedicated.

There’s a reason why only a small number of staffers return to the Texan semester after semester. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone. Sometimes it’s downright miserable. The hours are terrible, the pay is laughable and when you go into the office the next day you hear about what could have been done better.

But let me tell you something about seasoned Texan staffers. You can’t break us. We get up off the mat after a long night and go back to work. I learned quickly that you need a thick skin to survive here. Naturally, when I became the design editor and hired a staff of my own, I had one rule: Sissies need not apply.

I repeatedly told my staff they couldn’t cry in front of me and I’d make fun of them if they did. “You didn’t suck today” was the nicest critique I ever gave. By the end of the year, everyone in my department got used to being called a piece of shit. It became a term of endearment to them. One of my colleagues even gave me brass knuckles as a graduation gift. I guess he felt it was more fitting than sending flowers. And it was understood by all that I don’t do hugs. Ever.

No matter how mean I was to my staff, they still wouldn’t stop calling me mama. They would come to me with their feelings – and hugs – anyway.

Truth is, I was trying to be tough, but my staff just took it as tough love. I guess they didn’t get the message. I’m happy they didn’t. I’ve grown so close to these people that I’m flattered they can confide in me. I warmed to the idea.

It turns out my dad was right that day when I called him. Sort of. I’ll walk back up the stairs from this basement for the last time not only as managing editor, but also mama to an entire staff.

 

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A lot of thank yous to the people who made my time here memorable:

Reesikins – You’re underappreciated. You made coming to work every day a pleasure. Like I said before, behind every great managing editor there’s an even better copy desk chief. Thanks for making me look so damn good.

Dan – We can stop fighting about who’s better now. You’re the best sports columnist that’s ever worked for us and I’m excited to read more Dan Rants. Call me anytime if you need help deciding on dinner.

Thu – You will forever be my design guru. I know you don’t think you’re a great teacher, but I did learn a lot from you. From Nova to Hole, you’ve made my time here so much more memorable and enjoyable.

Olive – You were my best friend here. I can’t tell you enough how much of a better editor and person I am because of you.

Simo – You made an awesome design editor and an even better friend. You’re one of the most talented designers I’ve ever worked with and I know you’ll go far with it. I’ll miss our time at Ming’s more than anything.

Martina – Baby! It was impossible for me to be mad around you. Thanks for always making my day brighter. But please stop showing your high school newspapers to everyone – it’s embarrassing.

Alexa – You work so hard for us. Don’t think I don’t notice. I’m very, very thankful. I’m so proud of you and I think you’d make an excellent design editor.

Mustafa – Design brother! I can’t count the times you bailed me out when I was in trouble. Even after you left, thanks for still being there for me.

Jake – Thanks for the knuckles. And stop buying stupid apps – you don’t need a lightsaber on your iPhone. Also, please don’t stop working with Illustrator because I think you’re really talented. There, I said it.

Mary – You are the best photo editor I have ever worked with. You’re such a professional and I had the most fun in the office when you were around. I’m sorry for making you cry.

Blair – Thanks for all the laughs. And you know I got your back, girl. My crown bag will always take care of you.

Claire – I didn’t understand how hard it was until I had to do it. Thanks for believing in me. You were truly the best managing editor I ever worked with and I have a lot of respect for you, girl.

Bobby – No matter how bad the night was, you could always make me laugh. I love you and miss you, my brown brother.

Nova gang – I can’t thank y’all enough for welcoming me with open arms. If it weren’t for you guys, I probably wouldn’t have stayed at the Texan this long. The nights spent at Nova are some of the best memories I have from college. I’m a very lucky girl.

Vicky – You are a copy goddess. You were also my first friend at the Texan. Thanks for giving me all the head pats, drinks and pho I could handle.

Sydney – You get me. You just do. I don’t know if it’s the Selena or the Dirty hamburgers but I’ve enjoyed my time with you very much. You’ll do great as AME.

Viv & Lena – I know the Texan will be better than ever with you two running the show. I’m so proud of both of you and I can’t wait to see what y’all do with it.

Doug – You are so valuable to the Texan. Since you’ve joined us, the paper continues to get better and better with each critique. Thank you for always being so understanding and patient. And thanks for all the pepperoni and pineapple pizza.